Two seemingly unrelated items that I hope to tie up with a bow.
I recently read an Eater Portland piece chronicling notable restaurants that closed in 2021. Then I read that….
SABInBev has pulled the plug on the Cacti brand of hard seltzer. Not super surprising or important in the grand beverage scheme but it did get me to thinking if someone out there on the interwebs is tracking the comings and goings of hard seltzers in the way that the Eater folks did.
Now, I am not so plugged into this world, didn’t even know there was a brand called Cacti, but maybe someone else can point me towards a list. I think it would inform us all if seltzer is a passed fad or just in a mature market.
Things were really starting to look up out in the world, the…
Bud Light Seltzer Frozen Icicles appeared. Basically cheap boozy ice pops, where the “light” comes in is anyones’s guess. You do get super natural flavors such as Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, and Summer Ice.
Look, a determined toddler could make a summer treat that tastes better than this. So, super NOT NEEDED.
I should have seen this seltzer coming from a long way off. Just look at the bottom of the cans of New Holland’s Dragon’s Share hard seltzer and you will see that it is aged in bourbon barrels. So you will get orange with bourbon, cherry without bourbon, blackberry with bourbon and original too. I don’t be think it is a great use of a barrel but I guess it is a true differentiation point compared to all the other hard seltzers.
Despite the official opinion of the Beer Search Party blog of anti-hard seltzer, I have tasted various options including the White Claw (which should be avoided) and even recently had a nice one from Wild Basin aka Oskar Blues with a melon/herb flavor profile.
If you had told me that seltzer would still be a thing in 2021 with practically every brewery having one on offer, I would have choked a bit on my predictions. I do think (now) that they are probably going to hang around for a few more years before completely fizzling out but it will be only because the market got overheated vs the customer base.
The final nail in the seltzer coffin will come from a new drink of the summer of ‘21 or ‘22 whichever will steal thunder and the bubbles will fade.
Cali Fizz from Los Angeles Ale Works pours a lovely rose color. Not super bubbly. Expected a little more carbonation. This is not a sweet seltzer which is good. Many competing flavors inside the 16oz can. Orange and grape and a discordant tea note as well. A lot going on here. Points for going bold for sure. Jello meets white wine is the best descriptor.
I now have officially had a “hard” seltzer. Just one flavor from a more artisanal producer but none-the-less, I have an idea of what this category is like. The Ficks Blackberry Seltzer was sent to me by the company after I e-mailed that I would be honestly reviewing it. Sometimes, I say that and the offered product never shows up so kudos to Ficks for believing in their drink.
Obviously, this has to be reviewed under different rules and parameters. I like my regular seltzer to have a good strong bubbly-ness to it and to not have a fake fruit flavor. I will take a lightly flavored but truer taste over a strong artificial note.
The blackberry flavor with Ficks does not have that candy note to it. This tastes like blackberry, not in the sour way that some of that fruit can be but more in the red wine area. It is not a super bubble filled seltzer. More lightly sparkling. One out of two parameters met.
Now this does basically taste like a wine cooler to me. A light wine cooler. It is better than quite a few regular seltzers that I have had but it doesn’t reach my go-to Trader Joe’s flavors like clementine and grapefruit. I can have those without the alcohol and not think about it. The Ficks Blackberry clocks in at 5%. It would be easy to quickly enjoy a couple cans.
And that is what this comes down to. Would Ficks be fun at a party? Yes, indeed. Will it replace my normal seltzer, no, because what I get at TJ’s can be utilized in way more situations. I can have one at work, or in the car on a hot L.A. day. Maybe the other flavors would blow me away, maybe another brand would as well but until that time, “hard” seltzer is just fine. If you can find one made well, like the Ficks brand seems to be, then go for it but I would take beer, spirits and wine in a fantasy draft before seltzer.
I have “tried” hard soda and hard kombucha but I will be avoiding even trying the hard seltzers of the world. Not because of some stubborn purity but because I really don’t see the point in anything that is hardened at this point. I am not looking at Mr. Pibb or Fresca and saying to myself that I wish they were the same but made me tipsy.
I have seen caffeinated water, water with hops, electrolyte filled water and probably a few other weird variants that I am forgetting. It is the brand extension marketplace that we live in. I totally get that. It was only a matter of time before all other forms of liquid were alcohol’d up. 5% carrot juice may be next for all I know.
To me, stripping the color, modifying the alcohol level and tossing in some fruit flavor is not what I am looking for when I want a beverage. Seltzer is seltzer, soda is soda. Add crazy flavor combinations all day and into the night, if you so desire. But “adult” versions to me are what cocktails are for.
If your brewery needs a line of seltzers to pay off the fermenters, then by all means, go for it. In the end, it is a business. And if they sell, then sell them. If people buy birthday cake Dr. Pepper or Ghost Pepper slushies then, I guess toss anything in a can and see what happens. I will not be buying them though.
Peel the Label is an infrequent series with no photos or links. Just opinion.