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Colorado brewers, distillers cracking into hard seltzer craze

As demand for hard seltzer bubbles over, several Northern Colorado breweries – and one distillery – have taken notice.

After doing research and finding out it was legal to make hard seltzer under their existing brewing license, the owners of Verboten Brewing got to work adding the burgeoning beverage to a tap in the Loveland brewery last year.

Now, they’re selling a few kegs of the boozy bubbly per week to local bars and restaurants, co-owner Angie Grenz said. A seltzer tap with rotating flavors is officially a mainstay in the brewery’s tap room and canning is next, with plans to sell Verboten hard seltzers to the masses this summer.

Verboten was one of the first Northern Colorado breweries to crack into the hard seltzer craze — unveiling its first in November 2018, neck-and-neck with Odell Brewing Co.’s release of its Zest lemon-lime hard seltzer that same month.

Since then, Odell has released two other hard seltzers, including its latest — Eddy Mule — last month.

Odell Brewing’s Eddy Mule hard seltzer was released in early June, becoming the Fort Collins breweries third hard seltzer since late 2018. (Photo: Odell Brewing Company)

Wellington’s Soul Squared Brewing followed with its own hard seltzer, featuring favorite flavors like blackberry and watermelon mint, last month.

The Heart Distillery — which opened under the same roof as Windsor’s High Hops Brewery last year — announced its Colorado Spiked Seltzer this summer.

In 2018, sales of alcohol-infused seltzer drinks grew about 169%, making hard seltzers a $487.8 million industry and prompting seltzer companies to introduce new brands and flavors for 2019, according to the Washington Post.

For the first time ever this spring, BOLDERBoulder runners crossing the iconic run’s finish line were given the option to swap their post-race beer for a can of Oskar Blues’ Wild Basin Boozy Water hard seltzer.

And for the second year in a row, Taste of Fort Collins attendees were given a hard seltzer option alongside the typical beer fare at last month’s food festival.

“Part of the increase in production is due to an increase in demand,” said Tristan Schmid, marketing and events manager for Colorado Brewers Guild.

And, since most hard seltzers are essentially just fizzy malt beverages, like beer, craft brewers took notice of the exploding trend and how they could capitalize on it.

“As with any trendy new beverage, if a producer can make a quality product quickly and relatively easily, it’s a great way to diversify revenue streams and possibly attract new customers,” Schmid said.

In Verboten’s case, Grenz said making hard seltzer takes about as much time as a batch of beer. The process includes boiling water and sugar together, fermenting it and adding fresh fruit purees for flavor.

The result? Fruity, refreshing gluten-free drinks that hover around 4.5% to 5% alcohol by volume and clock in at 110 calories per 12-ounce glass, Grenz said.

“It’s a great alternative for people who come into the brewery with their friends and want to have a brewery experience but can’t have gluten or have hop sensitivities,” she added.

Weakland’s wife, Kati, can’t have gluten. After making some vodka sodas with The Heart’s craft vodka last year, the distillery started exploring the possibility of creating a canned hard seltzer that all of the distillery’s clientele can enjoy.

Zach Weakland, head distiller at Windsor’s The Heart Distillery, works in the distillery ahead of the announcement of Colorado Spiked Seltzer. (Photo: Ashlee Utley/The Heart Distillery)

The distillery began experimenting with different flavors and Weakland — also the head brewer at Windsor’s High Hops — even brewed some batches of hard seltzer under High Hops’ brewing license.

But he preferred the taste of the vodka-based seltzers and moved forward with Colorado Spiked Seltzer, unveiling it in The Heart’s taproom and distributing six-packs of cans to area liquor stores earlier this week. It’s the first hard seltzer to be canned out of a Northern Colorado distillery.

Colorado Spiked Seltzer comes in fruity flavors like lemon, tangerine and key lime. Each 12 ounce can is 5% ABV.

“It’s been a great response,” Weakland said, adding that one liquor store owner reported selling 20 cases of the seltzer in just two days.

So, as local brewers and distillers continue to find their footing in this latest trend, brace yourself for more bubbles.

 


Post time: Jul-16-2019
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