Hard seltzers are bubbling up everywhere. Most major breweries have launched their own versions of the carbonated alcohol and St. Joseph’s Angry Swede Brewery now has its own lime seltzer on tap.
“I noticed a couple years ago that seltzers were really becoming popular and more accepted within the brewing community,” said Mike Olinger, owner and brewer at Angry Swede.
Seltzers are not really “brewed” in the traditional sense, but are instead fermented, Olinger explained. Beer requires grains to be milled and mashed to release the sugars and flavors into the wort. Seltzers skip all those steps and basically involves adding sugar to water and some yeast nutrients before boiling and adding the yeast.
“It’s very simple compared to traditional brewing, but also a little more precise,” Olinger said. “If you have any off-flavors they will be much more apparent in a seltzer due to it basically being carbonated water with some flavor additions.”
After a lot of customers requested the drink and knowing he’d be the first to offer a locally fermented seltzer, Olinger took the leap. He dosed each keg with a different flavor — lime, orange, blue raspberry, strawberry, pineapple and blueberry.
Olinger’s current seltzer batch is a series he’s called Havsvatten, which means “ocean water” in Swedish.
“I will keep one on tap at all times and switch out flavors as they run out,” he said.
Currently, he’s asking customers to vote through social media on which flavor they want to be released.
At Smooth Endings Fine Wines, Spirits, Cigars and CBD, Patrick Sherer, consultant and unofficial “spirit guide for the masses,” and Becky DiGerlamo, manager, have seen a huge increase in the number of seltzers produced and have expanded their inventory to meet demand.
“From a few years ago we went from seeing one to two companies and now everybody is making them,” Sherer said.
The store currently has 30 different hard seltzers, including sampler packs with different flavors.
Drinking a low-calorie, low-sugar, low-carbohydrate beverage has come at the right time.
“I think a lot of it is people are generally trying to be healthier,” Sherer said.
“It’s more appealing to people now.”
The carbonation appeals to many because it’s similar to drinking a soda and is especially refreshing on a hot day. Seltzers, which have an alcohol content of between 4% and 7%, are sweetened with real sugar, sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners to help enhance the flavors — most of which are fruity.
Both Sherer and DiGerlamo enjoy seltzers because it’s a drink you can have a few of and not feel guilty.
While Sherer normally prefers craft beers and whiskey, if he’s drinking a seltzer, he’ll reach for a Truly punch or Truly lemonade. DiGerlamo is a fan of Truly tea and Truly punch. Truly is Smooth Endings’ most popular seltzer brand.
Brian Myers, co-owner of The Tiger’s Den in St. Joseph, said seltzers’ surge in popularity is largely due to Truly.
“The popularity of seltzers really grew due to a smart and aggressive marketing campaign by Truly,” Myers said. “Microbreweries figured out really fast that these drinks are extremely cheap to produce, as they are mostly just carbonated water, sugar and a flavoring.”
They’re also able to produce them a lot faster than beer, Myers added.
“As soon as a handful of notable craft breweries began to mass-produce their own line of hard seltzers, scores of others fell in line,” he said.
At The Tiger’s Den, customer favorites are Oskar Blues Brewery and Great Divide Brewing Co’s seltzers. The bar typically stocks three or four flavors of hard seltzer from at least two breweries.
When picking a seltzer, Sherer suggests selecting flavors that appeal the most, but he said don’t be afraid to be adventurous, either.
“We’ve found that the ones that are a little more unique are often better,” he said.
At Club Geek in St. Joseph, Bridgette Ballinger, co-owner, said the bar usually has between three and six seltzers available. 4204 Main Street Brewing makes some of her favorite seltzers.
“They have fun flavor combinations and don’t taste artificial,” Ballinger said.
She suggests that if you like a certain brewery’s beer, see if they have a seltzer.
“For example, I am a fan of 4 Hands Brewing, so I naturally wanted to try some of their seltzers,” she said. “Or if you’re not sure, try different brands of your favorite flavor to see which one you like best.”