Hard seltzer’s popularity is still booming after a few years on the market, and Colorado craft-beverage makers are jumping into the fizzy fray. The boozy sparkling water appeals to calorie counters, coming in at about 100 calories per drink, usually with minimal carbs and sugar and no gluten.
“People are becoming a bit more health-conscious in general,” says Katie Hill, marketing manager at Upslope Brewing. “They want to be able to do activities and stay healthy while still having a drink.”
Boulder-based Upslope launched Spiked Snow Melt in May at the brewery's Get Down Music Fest to rave reviews.
“We’ve been watching the seltzer market grow, and it’s booming,” says Henry Wood, partner and director of sales at Upslope. “I think people are just excited to try something new.” Current Snow Melt flavors include juniper and lime, pomegranate and açai, and tangerine and hops.
New seltzer flavors are tested in the taproom to see what people think. “It’s great for people who are gluten-free, who now get to come in and experience the vibe of the brewery,” Wood adds.
He points out that the seltzers are also becoming a popular addition to cocktails among consumers, suggesting gin with juniper and lime, tequila with tangerine and hops, and vodka with pomegranate and açai.
Kyle Ingram, vice president of marketing at CANarchy, the parent company of Oskar Blues, seconds the notion of hard seltzers as a mixer. CANarchy and Oskar Blues Brewery launched a line of boozy sparkling water, Wild Basin, in December 2018. The website offers creative cocktail recipes with the seltzer as the base. A recipe called You’re Turning Violet, Violet contains Wild Basin’s lime seltzer along with crème de violette, pepper vodka and elderflower liqueur.
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“The consumer wants to experiment and try different things,” Ingram points out, adding that the inspiration to launch hard seltzer was not only to keep up with market trends, but also to bring people to the Oskar Blues franchise. The hope is to also continue satisfying the Oskar Blues drinker, who is often living an active Colorado lifestyle. In fact, for every case of Wild Basin sold, one dollar is donated to river and beach cleanup in Colorado and around the country.
“The name of the game in craft beer is innovation and being open to new things,” he concludes.
Wild Basin flavors include classic lime, cucumber peach, melon basil, and lemon agave hibiscus. Black raspberry will soon be launched and has been the most requested flavor, Ingram says. “There’s a little tartness to black raspberry, but it’s not sour,” he says.
Verboten Brewing in Loveland has also waded into the seltzer pool, using real fruit purée in its grapefruit hard seltzer. Verboten also makes a ginger lime seltzer, teaming up with Kure's Ginger Beer in Loveland. Other players making a splash include Westminster Brewing Co., which makes a pear hard seltzer, and Denver Beer Co., launched a line in June called O&A Colorado Craft Hard Seltzers, with black cherry and lime as the first flavors.