Food & Drink

Summer’s Over, But White Claw Is Here to Stay

Frannie Jiranek/Thrillist

Before I even wanted to try hard seltzer, it was already in my hand. I spent a hazy spring weekend among hordes of amped-up bros forcibly inserting can after can of White Claw into my pasty, white claw. These guys predated the memes because they were the memes.
 
It was May 16th. The Preakness. The beginning of the Summer of the Seltzer of Our Lord 2019. The alcoholic phenom was inching towards its trimester of glory, and at least half of the popped-collared crowd in attendance was already living life Claws Out. Folks were quite literally tossing sample cans into the thirsty throngs, with varying levels of consent. I was a non-believer in the appeal of hard seltzer before I tried one. Yes, I judged a drink by its can, booze by its demographic. But now as a bona-fide Claw convert, I'm a true devotee in its staying power. This is no trend with a looming expiration date. This is a Drink with an upper-case D.

We all had been warned that a hard seltzer fad was fermenting, of course, and I tried my best to ignore it. Unless you've been living under a pile of discarded boozy root beer for the past several months, you'll know we've just concluded the season of hard seltzer: a three-month bacchanal embracing the bubbly, sweet-flavored, low-cal, low-sugar, alcoholic cousin of LaCroix. Its ABV (alcohol by volume measurement, basically, how strong it is) usually hovers between 4% - 6%, about the same as most light beers. The vague promise of wellness is there, which feeds into the Millennial obsession with striving not to feel like shit. But hard seltzer existed on the dark periphery of my drinking ideology -- settling in the no-fly zone of Zima (the '90s-era clear malt liquor that tastes like expired Gatorade filtered through game-used hockey pads) and wine coolers. It lived smack dab in a Venn Diagram cleaved between "Hangover Central" and "Hell Nah."   
 
But here's the thing. A crisp, chilled can of Claw tastes as good as a Tide Pod looks, as delicious as a Yankee Candle smells. It's a forbidden fruit that you can buy at Duane Reade. The first sip is as refreshing as a tongue-first dip in a Black Cherry accented freshwater spring. It tastes like battery acid steeped with 10 Jolly Ranchers -- when it's not ice-cold. But as a canned respite from a hot summer's day, it's the next best thing to cabbage under your ball cap: it's undeniably tasty -- and frankly, a wonderful substitute for the bloaty, hoppy, bitter snog of an IPA. It's an A/C cased in aluminum. A portable fan that'll get you tipsy. Twelve ounces of frosty bliss. I'm not alone in my newfound adoration.  
 

A crisp, chilled can of Claw tastes as good as a Tide Pod looks, as delicious as a Yankee Candle smells.

White Claw alone is reportedly outselling every craft beer aside from the monolith-with-an-orange-slice Blue Moon. Sales are up more than 200%. Literally "every young person you know" is drinking hard seltzer. It's the "cocktail of the summer"  (it's malt liquor, but sure). Bros love it. No, really, Bros love it. Oh, and girls love it, too (at least the ones on cheesy IG accounts). Entire viral careers are riding on the aluminum backs of White Claw cans. True, the whole operation might be "a scam" (kind of harsh; technically yes) but takes abound on why it's so popular in the first place (it's so basic, it's cool is the latest and potentially greatest assertion). And finally, the seltzer bubble is allegedly about to burst (hopefully it's black cherry flavored, right?)
 
Once dismissed as a "girl drink," (if it's light and sweet and bubbly, a large contingency of dudes will assume it's an alcoholic affront to their fragile masculinity) then gleefully adopted by the boyhood of the nation. Now, everyone has a horse in the carbonated alcohol race. I don't have science to back me up. But I do have experience. Hordes of chiseled and shirtless gay men in Fire Island guzzled endless cans of White Claw and Bon & Viv at countless pool parties.  A woman listening to Black Flag on Rockaway Beach casually knocked back a case of Truly in her black jorts, empties resting on a dog-eared copy of Barthes. A suburban dad, in this exact apron, sipped on Henry's Hard whilst flipping his meat. A tuxedo-clad, self-described guy’s guy, emerging from a wedding reception-bound party bus, haphazardly replaced the lyrics to "Jack and Diane" with White Claw propaganda ["Oh yea, life goes on, and we'll keep drinking these Claws, 'till we're all completely bombed" was the lowlight]. These are things I've seen. And these are things that don't simply go away when the mercury drops in the thermometer -- especially with a net cast this wide. 

Following the lead of the Drinks of Summers Past... hard seltzer earned a place card in our boozing rolodex.

As the iconic Edie McClurg quipped in Ferris Bueller's Day Off: "The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads -- they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude." Replace "him" with "White Claw," and "he's a righteous dude" with "it's a very fine alcoholic beverage" and bingo: you have captured the zeitgeist of American drinkers. Unlike plaid shorts, Barstool Sports, and the name Blake, White Claw has smashed through the bro-ceiling. 
 
Following the lead of the Drinks of Summers Past notably the millennial pink embrace of Rose ́ and the equally low-ABV, salamander orange Aperol Spritz -- hard seltzer earned a place card in our boozing rolodex. Even if the bubbles go into hibernation, I know the Frat Bro will see his shadow along with the groundhog this February, and by the time St. Paddy's Day rolls around, we'll see the Claws -- and by designation, the spirit of the Summer of 2019 -- out again, earlier than ever.

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