In 1993 there was Zima. In 2016, White Claw. Now we’ve reached craft hard seltzer?
“Hard seltzer is a flagship beverage at the Black Forest Brewing Company,” says Donovan Routsis, owner and brewer. “We strive to provide beverage options for everyone, whether it’s local wines and spirits, gluten free beers and, of course, our own Feuer Wasser [Hard Seltzer].”
Hard seltzer isn’t going anywhere—especially after national sales saw a 200% increase last year, according to Nielsen data.
What exactly is the recent draw to the alcohol-infused carbonated water? Low calorie, low-carb and gluten-free are a trifecta for a dominant diet culture or consumers at least focused on health and wellness. A lower alcohol by volume (ABV) doesn’t hurt either. And maybe it’s for those reasons the critics—many of whom are traditional beer brewers and drinkers—can view the fruity, drinkable beverage with disdain.
But not everyone in the beer biz is opposed. Local brewers watching the ubiquitous drink boom are applying their own local craft approach to the craze.
“We decided to add a seltzer to our lineup as a mostly gluten-free, lower-calorie offering,” explains Michael Johnson, head brewer of Brass Brewing Company. “We have customers in the brewery regularly who ask for beer alternatives, so it made sense.”
Hard seltzers are popping up on tap throughout the Springs. In 2019, Trinity Brewing Company took it a step further by launching a canned brand. Now their Fizzy Hard Seltzer is distributed alongside their signature canned beers throughout the state, including Grand Junction, Pueblo, Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and more.
“I think sometimes you get resistance from beer fans because they feel it’s a cop out or easy for a brewer to do. Or it’s too simple to drink,” says Jason Yester, owner and head brewer of Trinity and Fizzy Hard Seltzer. “It’s not just boiling sugar and adding yeast to it. I’m a microbiologist, and I’ve been in the business now for 24 years. In the past 10 years, I’ve learned more about yeast fermentation doing my seltzers than any other project I’ve done in beer.”
Fizzy Hard Seltzer is made of cane sugar fermented with wine yeast that includes added fruit essence, vapor direct from the fruit; it delivers an intense flavor. “As a longtime beer drinker, it’s nice to have something simple sometimes, something very straightforward,” Yester says. He points out that the draw to seltzer goes beyond a low-carb alternative to beer. “Bartenders are using hard seltzers in place of tonic water to make cocktails, including here at Trinity, so the consumer gets two drinks in one.”
Dark Cherry and Peaches n’ Creame are the first two Fizzy Hard Seltzer flavors in cans. But, “Stay tuned for seasonal seltzers in the future,” Yester says.
He also has a few tips for new seltzer drinkers:
1. Think of it as simple, easy-to-drink tonic water.
2. It’s lighter and easy to drink on the go.
3. Seasoned beer drinkers: Keep an open mind.
Bottom line, Yester says, “Try them. You’re going to enjoy them.”
Local Hard Seltzer Samples
Brass Brewing Man Bun Black Cherry Lemonade Seltzer
It’s named rather stereotypically, but all is forgiven when that gorgeous glass appears with a substantial head. The lemonade tempers the fruitiness for a solid drink. Skeptical beer drinkers, start with this one.
Red Leg Gelder Hard Seltzer
An effervescent lemon-lime flavor that’s perfect for the non-beer drinker who loves breweries.
Oskar Blues Classic Lime
On tap, it’s reminiscent of tonic water but tastes the way you always wanted tonic to taste. Great on its own, try it in their Our Colorado 75 cocktail.
Fizzy Hard Seltzer Peaches n’ Creame
Smooth with a hint of vanilla. Lovely alone and surprising in a mixed drink.
Peaches n’ Creame Cocktail Recipe
Pop a can and mix a DIY hard seltzer cocktail. Here’s how.
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces Fizzy Hard Seltzer: Peaches n’ Creame
½ ounce peach schnapps
Scoop of ice
Lemon round garnish
Add all ingredients to a shaker. Gently turn upside down 1-2 times to combine and chill.
Strain into a whiskey/rocks glass.
Add ice by preference.
Garnish with a lemon round.