Whether you love it, like it or had never heard of it before 2020, it's clear that hard seltzer is having a moment and, by the looks of it, has some serious staying power. Did you first come across it on one of the many huge billboards, were you targeted with YouTube ads or did you scroll past social media posts?  Maybe you spotted the many new rows of hard seltzer cans lining the shelves of supermarkets and off licenses. One thing we know for sure is, it's hard to escape this latest alcohol craze.  And it looks like it’s here to stay. If you haven’t already, it’s about time you tried it!

What is hard seltzer? And how is it made?

Simply put, it’s an alcoholic sparkling water. A refreshingly light drink with added spike of alcohol. As with many alcoholic drinks, the alcohol is created through the process of fermentation. When creating alcohol, fermentation is the metabolic process by which sugar is converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In beer fermentation, the alcohol comes from the yeast. Some hard seltzers, like Kugi, are fermented somewhat like a beer. Although the alcohol in these crafty seltzers usually comes from fermented cane sugar or malted barley. However most mainstream ones use an alcohol base, to which they add carbonated sparkling water and fruit flavourings. They are usually natural fruits but sometimes they can be artificial. Much like the craft beer scene, brands are exploring many different flavours, recipes, and ingredients. We see brands experimenting with a variety of bases, everything from gin and vodka to neutral grain spirits, and even rum!

While it would be a misnomer to label hard seltzer a “health” drink, it is safe to say they are a healthier alternative to traditional sugary tipples like fruit cocktails and fizzy drink mixers. The sugar content aside, most hard seltzers’ have between 4-6 % ABV, this is roughly the same as a light beer and a whole lot lower than a cocktail or neat spirit. And of course, we must be aware of our alcohol consumption, but additionally a lower alcohol content usually means lower calories.

If the ingredients and the health qualities are important to you, be sure to check the label. Make sure you're getting a natural one, as many are still full of chemical additives – to increase shelf life and added sugars – for extra flavour. Even if your seltzer is made with "natural sugar," the truth is that brands can be sneaky. Don’t be fooled by their slick advertising, their “trendy” packaging and convincing branding. If a brand is not transparent about its practices, then be weary. The aforementioned Kugi ticks all the right boxes, made from real organic juice, these guys are a millennial drinker's dream. A gluten free, sugar free, environmentally friendly, vegan craft seltzer. You almost need a drink just saying it. Pure Piraña too, is committed to creating products with all natural ingredients, no nasties, just full of the good stuff. Made with just three ingredients, there is no messing around and no surprises. They take sparkling water, a little splash of alcohol and a dash of natural flavouring. That’s it, natural and delicious!

And why should I take note?!

And much like 3D printing, blockchain, TikTok and air fryers, if there’s one thing people love more than hard seltzer itself, it is discussing how big hard seltzer is going to be. It’s hot topic, and a lot more interesting than hearing about the decline in physical retail space or how Gen Z have a greater awareness of internet security.  Industry experts, trend analysts and search data alike all advocate for hard seltzer’s skyrocketing popularity. It gained so much attraction in the US that in 2019, some shops placed a ration on the amount you could buy. Mainstream and reputable alcohol brands like Corona, Bud Light and Smirnoff all having a go at it. But, if you’re a beer lover, it’s interesting to note that hard seltzer has caught on very quickly throughout the craft beer world too. The bandwagon quickly got full, with the likes of BrewDog, Evil Twin, Omnipollo, Cigar City, American Solera, and Two Roads. And it doesn’t stop there. SeltzerLand, a seltzer festival, has turned 20+ US cities into “hard seltzer paradises”. Ticket buyers can take advantage of an immersive seltzer experience with over 100 seltzers and mouth-watering food! This mass adoption does not seem surprising if we look at recent figures. IWSR Drinks Market Analysis forecasts that in the US the category is set to be more popular than wine by the end of 2021. As during the pandemic general alcohol sales increased by 2%, whilst ready-to-drink products such as seltzers and canned cocktails rose by 43%. And according to a new report, commissioned by DRTY, the hard seltzer market in the UK is expected to be worth a whopping £75 million by 2023 with market growth over 1000%! 

So why has hard seltzer boomed?

Apart from celebrity launched seltzers like CACTI from the likes of hip-hop mogul Travis Scott, it’s easy to see what gives hard seltzer the mass appeal. It is dangerously thirst-quenching, highly drinkable and incredibly light and tasty. It makes total sense. The range of flavours out there far surpass the diversity of any other drink category. And as briefly mentioned above, brands are getting creative with their new unique flavour combos, crafting mouth-watering concoctions that speak to a everyone. Hard seltzer manufacturers are continually releasing new products and expanding the options to evolve with the market demand. Bud Light has already launched two new products in 2021, ice tea and lemonade, to keep up with the growing segment. With cherry taking 26.4% of market share it is by far the most popular flavour, but others such as, mango, pineapple, lime and raspberry, to name just a few, are also kicking about. In fact, Smirnoff now boast an impressive range with 10+ flavours, everything from white peach to blackberry and blood orange. Among other interesting flavours like lingonberry elderflower, pineapple basil and pear chamomile, Press have a delicious sounding apple and cinnamon. It would seem that seltzer is not just a summer drink, those autumnal flavours can be equally as juicy. So even if you’re a hardcore hard seltzer veteran, there’s definitely going to be a flavour you’ve not come across yet!

Now you might be asking the obvious question, so is hard seltzer worth the hype? We love cracking open a sparkling, refreshingly thirst-quenching drink, sure. We love pouring ice cold pints from The SUB (yes you can draught this fresh from a tap too). We love watching the new whacky and wild creations to come from this movement, not least because we are firm believers in variety being the spice of life! So, with all things considered, contrary to the popular saying and wise words of Chuck D and Flavor Flav, you should definitely believe the hype!