The Rapid Rise of Hard Seltzer

Projections suggest sales could exceed $2 billion in 2021.

hard seltzer
Photo courtesy of Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing/Laurel Imagery

In September, at a hard-seltzer festival in Denver attended by more than 2,000 people, Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing of Cherry Hill finished second in a judged tasting of nearly 30 brewed hard seltzers from around the country. Another Jersey hard seltzer, from Hamilton-based Crook & Marker, finished second in the popular vote.

Two takeaways: Forgotten Boardwalk co-founder Jamie Queli and C&M founder Ben Weiss (who sold off his first creation, Bai Antioxidant Beverages) are making waves beyond Jersey. Second, as a category, hard seltzer is rising faster than bubbles in a glass. Industry giants are all in, with Bon & Viv from Anheuser-Busch and Henry’s Hard Sparkling from Molson Coors, to name just two. Hard seltzer sales reached nearly $488 million in 2018; industry projections suggest sales could exceed $2 billion in 2021.

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The appeal is threefold: 

1) At or under 5 percent ABV, hard seltzers are as low in alcohol as most of the lowest-ABV beers. 

2) At about 100 calories or less per 375 ml serving, they are relatively easy on the waistband. 

3) They come in a host of natural flavors, such as Forgotten Boardwalk’s second place Tangerine Rose with hibiscus and white tea, or Crook & Marker’s coconut-pineapple No. 16. 

“People want the look and feel of a cocktail, but they don’t want to consume a lot of alcohol,” says Jeff Thistle, GM of ChopHouse Grille in Exton, Pennsylvania, which began offering infused hard seltzers last July, three months ahead of its sister restaurant in Gibbsboro.

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