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The Fizz Biz

SweetWater deep-dives into the hard seltzer market


The great Vince McMahon said it best: “There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and Randy Savage.” Well, it’s been nine years since the Macho Man’s tragic, premature death, and there has been no serious contender for the third spot in that eternal triumvirate. Until now. For as surely as death and taxes are a constant in our lives, so too are the consistent, persistent and insistent efforts of SweetWater Brewing Company to grow its signature “420” brand of beers and such.

Note the phrase “and such,” which in this case refers to a product well outside the company’s bailiwick: hard seltzer. The stunning success of White Claw, which became practically a cultural phenomenon, has spurred on a veritable plethora of carbonated copycats—even one produced by Corona, which according to the Internet, is also dabbling in viruses. That’s not true, but here’s something that is: SweetWater has scored yet another hit, which they’ve been doing every few months for the last couple of years. Granted, the world needs a new hard seltzer brand about as much as Bernie Sanders needs more insufferable lunatics shouting his praises on social media. In both cases, however, the ship has already sailed.

SweetWater’s Hydro Ponics line launched in 12-ounce cans in February, with tall boys coming this month. The seltzer is made using a process somewhat similar to SweetWater’s 420 beers, using fruit-forward terpenes to give each sip the faint but unmistakable taste and aroma of cannabis with none of the thing itself. At 5 percent ABV, it’s perfect for day drinking, and it makes a nice mixer—I prefer pineapple rum, but it would work with any liquor, substituted for club soda or tonic water. I enjoyed my sample mixed with whiskey and a healthy portion of the must-have lemonade from Loudmouth Treats, which is probably making the best edibles in Northeast Florida right now. (Find them on Instagram!)

The Hydro Ponics line comes in four fun flavors: Black Cherry Bomb, SoMango, Mother of Berries and Lime Haze. You can buy them individually or in a “party pack,” which contains three of each flavor. Frankly, this whole hard seltzer boom makes no sense to me. The flavor is too mellow, and the ABV is nothing particularly impressive. It’s like drinking light beer with slightly more social cachet. I know one guy who mixes his White Claw with Mad Dog 20/20, which seems absolutely insane, but it also sounds like something I must try out immediately. The Hydro Ponics line will never pull me away from Sweetwater’s glorious IPAs, but it’s a nice, low-calorie, gluten-free alternative. The big question, I suppose, is how many of these can you chug before you become a menace to society? Well, it depends on the individual’s body, but since we’re all Floridians asking this question, I would guess it’s already too late.

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