How Is Hard Seltzer Made?

Either you’ve tried hard seltzer or you’re the ultimate hipster, because hard seltzer is crazy popular. No, not beer popular, but popular nonetheless.

I might be like one, or two, or three…or four years late to the party by finally getting around to this, but how is hard seltzer made?

Before going into the nitty gritty, I’ll start with a spoiler: brewing hard seltzer requires sugar. Lots and lots of sugar.

Hard Seltzer: Alcohol + Sugar = Fun?

Like any alcoholic drink, hard seltzer needs sugar. Sugars are broken down during the fermenting process by yeast, and the byproduct is alcohol.

This huge amount of sugar mixed with water (known as a sugar wash) replaces the need for malted barley, setting hard seltzer down a different road than beer. By avoiding barley, hard seltzers are also gluten-free. Of course, seltzer companies can choose to include barley if they want, though it isn’t common.

During the actual fermenting process, most if not all sugars should be broken down into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Leftover is a tasty alcohol stew that turns into our hard seltzer.

Filtering and Flavoring

Frequent readers might know that I recently wrote about unfiltered beer. Well, hard seltzers also come out of their fermentation looking not-so-crystal-clear. So, filtering begins!

Following filtering, flavoring finally foments. Most brewers these days like to use natural flavors in their seltzers because artificial flavors taste…less than great to most people. Natural flavoring can happen by adding fruits, herbs, or pretty much whatever to the brew. 

Finally, the drink is carbonated (assuming it needs more carbonation after the brewing process) and is released into the wild. 

Is Hard Seltzer Healthy?

Hard seltzer, like any alcohol, is not healthy, strictly speaking. Alcohol is basically just empty calories, so there’s no true health benefit to drinking alcohol.

That being said, alcohols are not created equal, and the hard seltzer is relatively low calorie compared to, say, a pint of barrel aged pastry stout. 

There are a few factors that make hard seltzer a little better than other alcohols, too. For one, these are gluten-free, so take that as you will. Second, hard seltzers have a relatively low sugar content compared to something like a pre-mixed margarita. 

So in recap: is hard seltzer healthy? Nope, but you could be doing a lot worse. 

Why Do Brewers Brew Hard Seltzer?

Brewers brew hard seltzer because people want it and it’s easy to brew. Most hard seltzers should take about a week to go from raw ingredients to finished product, making it a great turnaround time for brewers. A quicker turnaround also means less floor space waiting for things to happen, meaning larger productions in the same amount of space.

But consumer demand takes the cake since brewers would stop brewing hard seltzers in a heartbeat if literally nobody wanted them. In fact, I’d guess that some brewers are forced to make hard seltzers just because of demand. I don’t have any quotes on that, so if you’re a brewer and this is you, please drop a quote in the comments section.

Hard Seltzer And The Future

Let me predict the future for you.

The year is 2037. You drive your hybrid car to the grocery store and plug it in. Looking for something relaxing on this hot summer day (temperatures have risen about 10ᐤ on average), you remember that White Claw released its 19th flavor variety pack. You lick your lips thinking about the bubblegum mint and banana sorbet flavor. Man, you miss bananas and wish they still existed.

The AI attendant at the cash register asks for your ID. You send it along the blockchain, or something like that. You walk outside back into the sun, and open a can since public drinking has been legal for the past six years. Ah, hard seltzer. It used to be everywhere, and it still is, but sometimes more everywhere and sometimes less. Then you remember that years ago, you read a blog post about hard seltzer, and it nailed your present day life right on the head. 

If you need more future readings, hit me up.

Thomas Short
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