What’s the Style Guidelines for Hard Seltzer?

With a completely neutral base, a hard seltzer is a blank canvas for a brewery to impart its work onto and truly create a flavor profile it wants to project with no true “style guideline” that many beers are judged from.

“Blank canvases are always fun, but also extra stressful because there is not much in the way of history or examples to choose from,” admitted Scott Metzger, who is now the COO for Maui Brewing.

As General Manager at Wormtown Brewery in Massachusetts, the brew team trialed over 100 different flavors in one form or another in its seltzer development.

“Some were complete duds and others made ​for a ​really hard decision on what to go to market with,” he said. “But in the end, it has been a fun experience of our team getting together and sharing what they like or don’t like and finding that common ground.”

Threes Brewing likes to think about food pairings for its beer and that has translated over to seltzer as well.

“We don’t want the liquid to overshadow the food,” said founder Josh Stylman. “We sell a lot of beer, in a lot of nice restaurants and I think seltzer will be similar. This first one [with lime, ginger, and Motueka] is still pretty chill.

“I had some with Mexican food. It paired really right on with chips and salsa and the lime kind of hit the spot. We’re doing another one with lemon zest, elderberry, and oak. That’s the difference between using your home brewer mentality. We’ve never thought of that, like in a million years of how those things all pair. But so far, it’s good.”

Andrew Barnett, the founder of Barnett & Son Brewing noted that there have definitely been customer favorites in the brewery’s rotating flavors, like Raspberry-Green Tea.​ It’s also opened the door to a new consumer base.​

“I think people like the variety,” he said. “We have definitely seen an expansion in our customer base and feel like keeping it at a lower price point than the beer helps too, with both taproom and to-go sales.”

New drinkers enter the market every day who aren’t reaching for beer, and every day people are looking to decrease their consumption of beer and hard seltzer can potentially help with that​, Metzger pointed out​.

​”Having an option really allows us to get the brand in front of those folks who may otherwise never have given us a look​,” he said.​

Photo courtesy Threes Brewing

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