Are Hard Seltzers Giving Craft Brewers Second Wind?

Denver Beer Co.’s co-founder Charlie Berger said he was a bit dubious when he first started hearing about hard seltzers entering the market.

While regional craft breweries are leveling off growth-wise, craft breweries 60,000 bbls and above were collectively down 1.8% in 2018. With breweries growing at a slower rate, hard seltzers are now on the radar.

Hard seltzers and hard kombuchas “are showing rapid sales growth off relatively small bases, and both seem to have won the interest of the health and wellness cachet,” according to Brewer’s Association.

So the Denver Beer staff tried a few hard seltzers, then a few more. 

“Then we tried just about every one we could get our hands on,” Berger said. “We started to realize that they do have their time and their place, just like any other style of beer.”

After a few successful pilot batches, Denver Beer jumped in once it dialed in a good recipe.

Getting into hard seltzers wasn’t without its challenges though. The staff researched commercially available options that helped them create their own vision for hard seltzers.

The process for developing a seltzer varies from how beer is created, so Denver Beer incorporated some new equipment.

“One of the major hurdles is fermentation,” Berger said. “The naturally occurring yeast nutrients from barley don’t exist in the raw materials for hard seltzer, so we had to change some processes to make sure that we completely fermented all the sugars out of the liquid.”

The sky’s the limit for hard seltzers in the craft beer world right now.

“Hard seltzer appeals to a super wide demographic,” implored Berger. “There is nobody who is turned off by it once they have it. It’s a really simple beverage that’s better for you, delicious, and fun. To us it seems as though it will become a significant percentage of the alcohol beverage market. And for good reason.”

Denver Beer is marketing the new seltzers as a great alternative to wine with a lot of the upsides from craft beer. The kegs at bars and restaurants continue to move as people discover hard seltzers.

What’s good for craft brewers is that the audiences for craft beer and seltzers overlap, but offering seltzers can bring in previously unreached consumers as well. Health conscious and gluten-free guests enjoy the lower calorie options.

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