Canarchy Pushes the Limits of "Craft" With Boozy Sparkling Water

This is craft.
Courtesy Canarchy
This is craft.
The mental image of the average craft-beer drinker and the average fruity "hard" beverage drinker couldn't be more different. Serious beer drinkers frown into their glassware and use phrases like "mouthfeel" and "international bitterness units" to describe what they're drinking. The last person you saw at a party drinking a Mike's Hard Lemonade or Henry's Strawberry Kiwi was probably under 25, a little too loud for the room and not talking about their drink of choice at all, except to ask for another.

But the brewers at Canarchy, the overarching company started by Oskar Blues to oversee its growing stable of brands, think there's at least a little overlap on the Venn diagram of canned-beverage drinkers. Surely there must be people out there who want something light and fruit-flavored — and made with the same earnest and sincere intent as the most artisanal of barley-based brews.

So Canarchy has come up with Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water, a hard seltzer that the company says is the first nationally distributed "craft" product of its kind. The target audience is "active lifestyle consumers" (according to Canarchy materials) looking for an all-natural drink to go with outdoor sports, yoga and happy hour — the holy trinity of the active set.

Each sleek twelve-ounce can of Wild Basin rings in at 5 percent alcohol by volume and contains 100 calories, no sugar and 1 gram of carbohydrates. The drink, which comes in flavors like cucumber peach, melon basil and lemon agave hibiscus, is also gluten-free. So how does Canarchy do it? Starting with water from the St. Vrain River, the seltzer is fermented with cane sugar and sparkling-wine yeast before natural flavors are added.

The result is light, effervescent and easy to drink. The seltzers are also at the opposite end of the spectrum from Oskar Blues flavor bombs like Ten Fidy Imperial Stout or even the flagship Dale's Pale Ale.

While the introduction of Wild Basin threatened to push the Canarchy collective out of the standard definition of what constitutes a craft brewery, the Brewers Association, which takes on the odious responsibility of defining such things, just last week loosened its language a little. Previously, the BA's definition included "Traditional. A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers."

But as of last week, that section of the definition now only reads "Has a TTB Brewer’s Notice and makes beer." (That's quite a shift in position.)

So all you frowning, serious craft-beer aficionados staring intently into your smoked blueberry saisons, your hazy New England guava milkshake IPAs and your salted cucumber goses, welcome to the hard seltzer club!
Now smile and have another.