Why Grant Pauly of 3 Sheeps Has Embraced the Technical Aspects of Seltzers

Happy to escape with 2020 beer sales near stagnant from 2019 numbers, 3 Sheeps Brewing saw some uptick in hard seltzer production and it was something that founder Grant Pauly didn’t ever expect to lean into.

“I will admit, when the hard seltzers first came out, I was one of the biggest naysayers of the category thinking that it was just another fad and it did not have any legs, it would just be another one of those in and out styles,” he recalls. Yet, as time wore on, he started to realize the technical challenges in creating a good hard seltzer and decided to dig into it. Launching the Cloudless line in February of 2020, 3 Sheeps saw growth in sales because of it during the summer and ended up 22% in production totals to nearly 10,000 barrels total.

“Creating the base recipes and kind of understanding the differences in fermentation properties, and everything that goes into hard seltzer working with all these great extracts [was exciting],” he said.

Launching the seltzer helped 3 Sheeps — located about 60 miles north of Milwaukee in Sheboygan, Wisconsin — get into more retail establishments right before the pandemic really hit hard in the state. Since many consumers started to purchase more craft beer in chains, it was an opportune time for the brewery.

And now with the taproom opened in a less capacity, being able to cater to new consumers helps as well.

“We can’t do wine or spirits in the taproom,” he said. “So for those who come in that either are gluten intolerant or don’t drink beer, and they’re coming with their friends or family. It’s nice to have an option for them at our place. We try to be a place that’s welcoming to all and as much as I want everyone to drink beer, I know that that’ll never be the case.

“So it’s nice to give them some options.”

A key that intrigued Pauly with creating a seltzer is the use of extract flavors.

“We don’t do it on our beer side, but once I started working with all these natural flavoring extract manufacturers and realizing how precise and what a science it is and how they really do try to stay true to the ingredients they are using, I got really geeked about it,” he said. “Making the seltzers was a lot of fun.”

The entire Cloudless line includes blends of multiple fruits.

“Blending together a mango and lychee is one of our newest ones,” he explained, “Dragon Fruit, Passion Fruit, Papaya. We try to bring out just different elements and flavors to each of them.”

And Pauly noted that they don’t just use extracts from one extract maker.

“We’ve probably sampled a couple 1,000 different extracts over the last couple of years,” he said. “Every manufacturer does something a little bit better than another in a different way. And just trying to highlight what they can pull out from, say, a mango. It was just another fun flavor experiment.”

Although he doesn’t think hard seltzer is going away, he does feel there may be a plateau on the way.

“This summer to winter has seen one of the biggest drops in previous years,” he noted. “This past summer, I think the stat was like 70% of all craft beer fans drank one seltzer a week, or at least a seltzer a week. And then in the wintertime … they’re really not drinking their hard seltzers. So you’re going to see a bigger swing in summer than winter in the past. So all of a sudden, I don’t know where it’s gonna finish up. But I think it’s going to be around.”

Photo courtesy 3 Sheeps Brewing

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