New Hard Seltzers Hitting The Shelves Before Summer 2021
Sonic, Topo Chico, and even Gordon Ramsay are getting in on the game.
It’s been a while since we were caught up in “White Claw Summer.” Hard seltzer seemed like it was exploding in 2019, but even the most optimistic seltzer-lovers might have fallen short of predicting where hard seltzer has gone. It has become ubiquitous. Sports teams have official hard seltzers. The bubbly drink appeared in Super Bowl commercials. And a whole lot of people are drinking it. Americans drank more than $4 billion worth of hard seltzer in 2020, according to Bump Williams Consulting, which cites NielsenIQ data.
White Claw is still dominating the world of hard seltzer, but there’s a whole mess of companies that are coming for the crown harder than Daenerys Targaryen. It’s become comical, really. Celebrities are doing it (Gordon Ramsay and Travis Scott), soda companies (Topo Chico), fast food chains (Sonic), TV channels (The Hallmark Channel), wineries (Barefoot)... everyone has an excuse why they’re chasing all that hard seltzer money.
“Everyone wants to get in and get a piece of the pie,” says Matt Escalante, senior director of marketing at Molson Coors, which released Topo Chico Hard Seltzer this year. Sales jumped more than 160% in 2020 compared to 2019, and people in the industry don’t think it’s done growing yet. “I think [the growth] is very real,” Escalante says. “You’ve got all kinds of entrants [to the market]. A lot of craft brewers that are more local, regional are getting in... People see the growth and want to take advantage of it.”
John Shea, Chief Marketing Officer with White Claw, tells Thrillist the same thing when asked to explain the wild number of new entrants into the market. “Hard seltzer is the fastest-growing beverage category, with growth more than two times anything else, and White Claw is the major driver,” he says.
We’re not even halfway through 2021, and there are a shocking number of new hard seltzers on store shelves already. We have sifted the shelves to highlight all the new releases. (Even if what’s being labeled a “hard seltzer” is increasingly broad.) Next time you’re at the store looking at the overwhelming number of seltzers staring back at you, you’ll know which box to grab if you want to try something new, and they’re still sold out of Topo Chico.
Topo Chico Hard SeltzerABV: 4.7%
Flavors: Tangy Lemon Lime, Exotic Pineapple, Strawberry Guava, Tropical Mango
What it is: It's a hard seltzer. That's about the long and the short of it. It's a hard seltzer from a familiar brand. The draw is finding out if the beloved water brand can make a hard seltzer.
Why it's different: Escalante says what makes it stand out is "unique twists on familiar flavors" and the "minerals added for taste to deliver that Topo Chico taste that people would expect."
White Claw SurgeABV: 8%
Flavors: Cranberry, Blood Orange
What it is: "White Claw fans are among the most engaged of any brand in the world, and have created an entire sub-culture around the brand," Shea tells Thrillist. "We don’t have to look too far for inspiration and they were vocal about wanting a higher-ABV hard seltzer and new flavors." White Claw has unveiled a version of the classic that not only has a higher alcohol content but comes exclusively in 16-ounce cans. Despite the Surge name, it is not connected to the 90s soda, and it doesn't have any caffeine.
Why it's different: White Claw + more alcohol = Surge
Stone Buenavida Hard SeltzerABV: 5%
Flavors: Mango, Black Cherry, Mandarin, Watermelon Lime
What it is: It's an unlikely source for a new hard seltzer, but here we are. Stone Brewing has launched a line of four hard seltzers. The company says it's the first to do them in glass bottles on a large scale. You'll be able to find them in Southern California starting in July 2021, with a national rollout planned for January 2022.
Why it's different: Stone Co-Founder Greg Koch has been critical of hard seltzer in the past. The company says that the difference is theirs will be good. Also, bottles.
Mike's Hard Lemonade SeltzerABV: 5%
Flavors: Lemon, Strawberry, Mango, Pineapple
What it is: Mike's and hard seltzer seems like such an obvious combination that it's hard to believe it only arrived this year. Mike's, however, is part of Mark Anthony Brands, which makes White Claw. Attempting to keep pace with the explosive growth of White Claw meant that a release from Mike's had to be put on the backburner, a representative tells Thrillist.
Why it's different: The combination of lemonade and seltzer is far from an unheard-of combination. (In fact, there are a lot of them out there.) What's different here is simply that it's coming from a brand you probably associate deeply with the collision of lemonade and alcohol. Plus, the flavors are a little bolder and tart, which may be a draw if you're not into the relative subtlety of most hard seltzers.
Truly Extra Hard SeltzerABV: 8%
Flavors: Black Raspberry, Peach Mango
What it is: Like Surge, Truly has its own high-ABV hard seltzer that comes in a single large can. This time it's an 18-ounce can. It's a significantly higher ABV than the usual Truly. It's earned the "extra" in its name.
Why it's different: If you're counting, Truly announced their high-ABV drink before White Claw.
Spindrift Spiked Sparkling WaterABV: 4%
Flavors: Lime, Pineapple, Mango, Half & Half
What it is: The cult-favorite seltzer company is getting into hard seltzer with four new flavors. It's good enough that when Stone announced its unexpected hard seltzer launch, the announcement included a note that Stone and Koch said they "specifically would like to call out that the new Spindrift Spiked is an outstanding new entrant on the marketplace." Though, Stone does have a distribution agreement with Spindrift.
Why it's different: Spindrift's hook for their regular seltzers is that they're made with real fruit. That's still the case here. Also, the Half & Half will be alluring to many. I've tried that, and it's going to be a hit with people who like Arnold Palmers.
Hell's SeltzerABV: 5.6%
Flavors: Knicker Twist (passionfruit, pineapple, orange), That's Forked (key lime, vanilla, graham), Berry Inferno (peach, blueberry, raspberry), Mean Green (kiwi, lime, mint, pineapple)
What it is: This is Gordon Ramsay's personal line of hard seltzers. Yes, we are definitely at that point of the hard seltzer boom. Just like RTD cocktails and spirits, celebrity-branded hard seltzer is here. This is definitely not the last time you're going to see this.
Why it's different: Well, it's "Hell's Kitchen approved." Also, there's a faux macho thing going on with the names. That's not really a positive thing. Still, the flavors are unique. As much as I never want to say I'm drinking a "That's Forked" in public, the actual flavor profile is quite good. It tastes like a key lime pie with vanilla beans.
Sonic Hard SeltzerABV: 5%
Flavors: Lemon Berry, Classic Lemonade, Cherry Limeade, Original Limeade, Ocean Water, Orange Pineapple, Mango Guava, Melon Medley
What it is: Yes, that's Sonic-Drive-In we're talking about. It will release two four-flavor variety packs on May 1, the company previously told Thrillist. All eight flavors are based on Slush flavors that the fast food chain offers.
Why it's different: It's one of the more unexpected companies to jump into the world of hard seltzer. Also, basing the flavors on its slushes is intriguing. We're game to give these a go as soon as they're available.
Michelob Ultra Organic SeltzerABV: 4%
Flavors: Spicy Pineapple, Cucumber Lime, Peach Pear
What it is: The release was announced in 2020, but the fruits of the company's Miche-labor didn't arrive until this year. Michelob has an organic hard seltzer with some atypical flavors (for hard seltzer, at least) and an ABV that's even more sessionable than most.
Why it's different: It's the organic label that will make Michelob's seltzer stand out. Though, the USDA Organic label and Michelob aren't an unfamiliar pairing. It made its first organic beer back in 2018.
Bud Light Seltzer LemonadeABV: 5%
Flavors: Original, Black Cherry, Peach, Strawberry
What it is: A four-flavor run of lemonade seltzers from Bud Light hit shelves in January. Lemonade is absolutely one of the big micro-trends inside hard seltzer. It doesn't track with the drive for high-ABV versions of seltzers, teas, or lower calorie counts, but it's impossible to deny that it's in line with being a damn refreshing combo.
Why it's different: It's not really. It's just lemonade seltzers.
Cacti Agave Hard SeltzerABV: 7%
Flavors: Strawberry, Pineapple, Lime
What it is: This tequila-inspired seltzer line is the progeny of a collaboration between Anheuser Busch and Travis Scott. Yes, that Travis Scott. "Sicko Mode" Travis Scott. Though, it shouldn't be all that surprising. Scott has also put his name on a meal at McDonald's.
Why it's different: It isn't marketing itself as a high-alcohol hard seltzer, but it sits at the same ABV as a Bell's Two Hearted. Plus, it's sweetened with agave. That's the hook.
Truly Iced Tea Hard SeltzerABV: 5%
Flavors: Lemon, Raspberry, Peach, Strawberry
What it is: Another microtrend in hard seltzer is the combination of iced tea and hard seltzer. It's becoming more commonplace to see them together, even aside from Spindrift's Half & Half. If you're raising your eyebrows, well, someone out there is enjoying it. Three major brands, including Truly, have jumped on the bandwagon.
Why it's different: It's iced tea! It's seltzer!
Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Tea SeltzerABV: 4%
Flavors: Pineapple-Passionfruit, Lemon, Raspberry
What it is: PBR is dabbling in a lot of new styles, from hard coffee to cannabis, whiskey to, well, this. The peach version was released in 2020, but PBR has expanded its offerings this year.
Why it's different: Same as Truly Iced Tea Hard Seltzer. It's tea, and PBR's version is pretty good.
White Claw Hard Seltzer Iced TeaABV: 5%
Flavors: Lemon, Peach, Mango, Raspberry
What it is: This is the third seltzer and iced tea combo listed in a row. At this point, you get what we're looking at here.
Why it's different: Well, it's the tea thing again. Though, saying that three times in a row makes it seem like maybe it's not all that different.
Real Premium Hard SeltzerABV: 5%
Flavors: Cucumber Melon, Tangerine Yuzu, Peach Pomegranate, Grapefruit Black Raspberry
What it is: Released in April, Real is made with cane sugar in Texas. It's a new release, but you're only going to find it in the largest contiguous US state. So, the opportunities to try a hard seltzer with yuzu are going to remain pretty limited for most people.
Why it's different: The flavor combinations are unique, even if they still fit the profile of what you expect from the category.
Party WaterABV: 5%
Flavors: Watermelon Lime, Grapefruit Orange, Raspberry Lime, Strawberry Mojito
What it is: This is the first hard seltzer to come from Brooklyn's Five Boroughs Brewing Co. The name gets to the point of what pretty much every other hard seltzer is trying to imply. It's hitting shelves for the first time in May 2021, but will only be available in New York to start. Though, the company says that distribution to other markets is coming "soon."
Why it's different: I'm not sure. It's not being released by a big beer company, which separates it from most on this list.