As we recently discussed on our podcast, the hugely successful hard seltzer category is rapidly evolving. One impetus of that development is the growing number of small and regional brewers entering the remunerative space, which is dominated by big brands such as White Claw (Mark Anthony Brands) and Truly (Boston Beer). (Incidentally, these brands are increasingly cutting into beer’s market share.)
Craft brewing companies across the country are producing their own takes on the fizzy, low-calorie alcoholic beverage, often with creative and interesting results. Evil Twin Brewing in Ridgewood, Queens, showcases nostalgic flavors such as gummy bears, cola, and rainbow sherbet in its line of pastry-style spiked seltzers, Evil Water. Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing, meanwhile, turns to terpenes, the compounds that give some marijuana strains their distinct aromas, to fragrance its Hydroponics hard seltzers.
It’s no surprise craft brewers would beget innovations in the spiked-seltzer segment, even as the tidal trend threatens their core business. With that, VinePair decided it was time to pose the question to brewers and brewery staff members across the country: What’s the best hard seltzer out there right now? Are you bubbling with anticipation for their picks? Let’s get to it!
The Best Hard Seltzers Recommended By Beer Pros:
- Wild Basin Hard Seltzers by Oskar Blues
- Vibez Hard Seltzers by Aslin Beer Company
- Brewery X’s Cocktail-Inspired Hard Seltzers
- Untitled Art’s Florida Seltzers
- Truly Hard Seltzer
- MIA Brewing’s HRD WTR
- 3 Daughters Brewing’s Hard Seltzers
- Evil Twin’s Evil Water
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended hard seltzers!
“Wild Basin, which Oskar Blues puts out. The flavors are top notch, and aren’t oversaturated with extracts.” —James Carlyle, Head Brewer, Ingenious Brewing Company, Humble, Texas
“I enjoy all six flavors of the Vibez line by Aslin Beer Company in Alexandria, Va., but the mango lime ginger is my go-to. The flavor combination works well without tasting artificial, and the carbonation is just right. Plus, I’m a sucker for ginger. It’s hard to find a good craft seltzer that doesn’t taste like a kettle sour gone bad, in my opinion, so I commend those that can do so!” —Lindsay Trigoboff, Brewer, Bond Brothers Beer Company, Cary, N.C.
“Anaheim’s Brewery X usually offers around four hard seltzers, and some of them are even cocktail-inspired, like Mai Tai and Margarita, which is smart. I truly (see what I did there?) never thought I would like a hard seltzer or be the person to brew one, but the kiwi passionfruit changed that for me, with its bold flavors and dry finish. Your friends will want to claw (did it again!) at one if you show up with these at a party!” —Jess Mitchell, Assistant Brewer, Refuge Brewery, Temecula, Calif.
“I can be one of those old sticks in the mud. I was vocal about not drinking or producing hard seltzers. I felt, like many, it was signaling an unwelcome change in the industry. Now, I admit I drink my weight weekly in a mix of Topo Chico and La Croix, so I have long enjoyed carbonated water. I came to realize that hard seltzers aren’t so different from fruited sours, hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, or ‘insert popular new beer style’ upon its initial rise. It’s all a matter of perspective, and bucking tradition. I was at The Whale bar in Asheville, and my buddy came over with this fizzy little glass and said not to say anything, to just try it. I instantly knew it was a hard seltzer, and could no longer deny the deliciousness. The bubbly drink happened to be from Untitled Art’s Florida Seltzer line, guava and prickly pear. Now it’s got me thinking, maybe we should go hard seltzer.“ —Todd DiMatteo, Co-owner and brewer, Good Word Brewing & Public House, Duluth, Ga.
“I like hard seltzer because it’s a great, light-bodied alternative to beer and cider. What I look for generally is one that’s mildly flavored, not overwhelmingly sweet. Truly’s orange flavor hits that mark, and it’s even more refreshing on tap.” —Mariquita Reese, Brewer, Sloop Brewing Co., East Fishkill, N.Y.
“It was probably late 2015 when I was handed my first hard seltzer from MIA Brewing. They had just rolled out HRD WTR in a number of different flavors, and if I remember correctly, in crowlers too. But I’ll never forget my first pint of the cucumber. I remember thinking to myself, ‘this is going to explode within the industry.’” —Taylor Pogue, Social Media Director, Calusa Brewing, Sarasota, Fla.
“I buy Truly. I find myself rotating between the lemonade and berry mix packs most often. If I’m picking an outright favorite flavor, I’m going with blueberry and açaí, but a friend turned me on to mixing the lemonade flavors 50/50 with Twisted Tea, and I’m willing to admit that’s a damn fine pool beverage. I’ll also drop some fresh lime juice and cilantro into the lime Truly. So good! We also recently released a line of Contact High hard seltzers in blueberry lemonade, pineapple, and tangerine flavors, and of those, the pineapple is my favorite.” —Jeremy Danner, On-premise Specialist and Brand Ambassador, 4 Hands Brewing Company, St. Louis
“I’m a self-described ‘sparkle head,’ and I think the hard seltzer that sold me was HRD WTR from MIA Beer Company. A great friend of mine brought some back from Miami after a trip, handed me a can of the pineapple coconut flavor, and I was hooked. It was like a much more enjoyable Piña Colada Slurpee: clean, refreshing, and effervescent. It’s such an enjoyable drink, I crave it. Unfortunately for me, it’s not available in California, but it did serve as the inspiration for our own THINGS Piña Colada seltzer.” —Eric Silva, Director of Sales and Distribution, Brouwerij West and THINGS … For Your Head, San Pedro, Calif.
“The hard seltzers from 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg, Fla., are a little different from the others I’ve experienced from larger companies. I didn’t think the profile was as neutral-tasting, which I actually liked.” —Derek Howard, Co-owner and Pizza Czar, Bad Dad Brewing Co., Fairmount, Ind.
“I have to give a huge shout-out to Evil Twin’s Evil Water for pushing us to do our own hard seltzer, Turbøwater, specifically after trying the marshmallow Piña Colada, made in collaboration with 8th State. We’ve always been about that tropical stee-lø at Hoof. We had been up until that point nonplussed on the entire hard seltzer arena, but Jeppe [Jarnit-Bjergsø, founder of Evil Twin Brewing and Evil Water] has brought his creativity into the game and nailed it. Frooty and Rich AF, yet still water. Mind blown.” —Blake Volk, Brewer, Hoof Hearted Brewing, Marengo, Ohio
Published: October 7, 2020