Hard Seltzers Challenge Craft Beer This Summer

(Okay, so maybe we were wrong)

Coming out of a long Labor Day Weekend, a holiday frequently associated with beer, you might have noticed more poeple drinking hard seltzers rather than beer than ever before.

We did…

Although we’d been reporting that with Boston Beer’s Samuel Adams beer brand underperforming, its hard seltzer line, along with Twisted Tea, had been keeping the company afloat…we thought that case was probably an outlier.

When Craft Brewing Business declared hard seltzer “the official drink of summer 2019,” we were dismissive (Hey we’re beer people) but in retrospect maybe we shouldn’t have been.

Robin Shreeves at Inside Beer, a popular newsletter followed by many in the brewing community,  recently asked readers if they “thought hard seltzers had staying power,” and we were quick to respond with an emphatic NO.

But having attended several gatherings over the weekend, where hard seltzers dominated the cooler space, we have to question our outright rejection that hard seltzers like the uber-popular White Claw might, for many, be replacing beer as the drink of choice.

And that stats (which we clearly have been ignoring) seem to bear this out.

This from the Detroit Press

“Hard seltzer sales increased 193% year-over-year from April 2018-19, according to Nielsen data, and analysts say it could become a $2.5-billion business by 2021. White Claw alone enjoyed a reported 200% increase in sales over a four-week span in July and has surpassed nearly all craft beer brands in sales, according to reports.”

Boston Beer Company’s hard seltzer line, Truly, has been on an upward trajectory for years.

And we saw White Claw hard seltzers everywhere over Labor Day Weekend along with Anheuser-Busch’s Bon & Viv and MillerCoors’ Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water.

Pabst Blue Ribbon, Smirnoff and Natural Light all have hard seltzers lines as well. But even more telling is that there are now craft breweries turning to hard seltzer products.

In December of 2018, Oskar Blues announced its Wild Basin Hard Seltzer line which now comes in four flavors, Classic Lime, Cucumber Peach, Melon Basin and Lemon Agave.

Since then an escalating number of craft brewers like Dallas’ Deep Ellum Brewing and Austin’s St. Elmo Brewing have reportedly gotten into the game.

So maybe we have been hard seltzer deniers…But we’re rethinking things now.

And although were not ready to admit that hard seltzers won’t eventually lose the ‘hotness’ they’re currently enjoying…we do have to acknowledge their undeniable power now.

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