I swirl the clear bubbly drink around in my glass thoughtfully, take a sip and gag. It tastes as bad as it smells.
It’s a warm Tuesday evening, and I’ve somehow cajoled two SFGATE reporters and an actual certified sommelier into tasting an array of 2021’s hottest new hard seltzers. When Josh first arrived at fellow SFGATE reporter Michelle Robertson’s apartment for the tasting, he assured me that even though he’s a certified wine sommelier, he’s actually a big fan of spiked seltzers.
Well, maybe before now. With six seltzers left to try, out of 18 total, morale has reached an all-time low.
Since 2019’s infamous “White Claw Summer,” hard seltzers have become ubiquitous. Every big alcohol company has one, from Bud Light to Four Loko. Travis Scott has a seltzer. Gordon Ramsay has a seltzer. Sonic Drive-In has a seltzer?
The market is so oversaturated, in fact, that it's causing “consumer confusion,” Boston Beer founder Jim Koch, the creator of Truly Hard Seltzer, told CNN Business. And it's making hard seltzer’s growth take a turn for the worse — Boston Beer’s shares plummeted 25% this past Friday.
Full disclosure: I love White Claws. Yes, they taste like if you were drinking carbonated water and someone screamed out loud the name of a specific fruit in the other room. But they are so inoffensive, so easy to drink. They taste like summer.
But despite my everlasting devotion to the Claw, I needed to branch out. I needed to see whether the endless cycle of beer companies and celebrities shamelessly capitalizing on the seltzer trend had actually succeeding in improving on the tried and true classic, or whether they were just lazy imitations. So I sent my colleagues to Safeway, where they hunted for as many hot, trendy new seltzer options as they could find.
We ended up with a ridiculous number of variety packs: Cacti Agave Hard Seltzer (a collaboration between Anheuser Busch and Travis Scott), Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, Truly Iced Tea Hard Seltzer (a new release from an OG seltzer brand) and Happy Dad (which was apparently made by some YouTubers who call themselves the Nelk Boys?).
We also snuck in a sole White Claw palate cleanser, you know, just for kicks — although I won’t include it in the ratings below because we only sampled the black cherry (which got a 4/5 rating, for the record).
To avoid judging a book by its cover (Bud Light, I’m looking at you), we decided to make it a blind tasting. Our trusty sommelier was in charge, hiding the cans on the floor of Michelle’s living room and asking us to cover our eyes with each pour.
We laughed, we cried, we triggered our gag reflexes. Here is what we found.
Average rating: 1.4/5
Best flavor: Pineapple
Worst flavor: Wild Cherry
I’d like to have a word with the Nelk Boys. These seltzers are god awful. After taking a quick gander at the “history” portion of these YouTubers’ Wikipedia page and finding out their seltzer’s tagline is “NO MORE S—TY SKINNY CAN BULLS—T,” I wanted to hate them, but I’m happy to report that a completely blind tasting validated my suspicions.
“If you've ever been intrigued by the scent of Windex, this is the seltzer for you,” said Josh of the lemon-lime.
The watermelon flavor tasted like “B.O.” or “vanilla Coke water.” The wild cherry gave us notes of flavored fluoride and pumpkin spice bath bombs. The wild cherry, in fact, was so bad we had to take a long break after tasting it.
Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade
Average rating: 2.2/5
Best flavor: Black Cherry Lemonade
Worst flavor: Strawberry Lemonade
Apparently, lemonade is the newest hard seltzer trend, but too many of these Bud Light flavors just ended up tasting like 7 Up.
Poured into clear glasses, they had an off-putting cloudy appearance. The original flavor tasted like a melted sour gummy worm, the black cherry reminded us of a doctor’s office, the strawberry tasted like cotton candy at a kid’s party, and the peach “smelled like disappointment,” according to my colleague Dianne.
Cacti Agave Hard Seltzer
Average rating: 2.9/5
Best flavor: Pineapple
Worst flavor: Lime
Travis Scott’s agave-based seltzer gave us some high highs and some low lows. The pineapple, which had some “interestingness,” in Michelle’s words, boasted an aggressive pineapple flavor with strong carbonation and a “bitter pineapple rind moment to it, which keeps it real,” Josh said.
But the lime flavor paled in comparison — the worst iteration of the medicinal-tasting 7 Up “lemon-lime BS” flavor we’d come to loathe at this point in the tasting.aside">
“It tastes like they used lime garnishes they used for gin and sodas at the sticky part at the back of the bar,” said Josh.
“It smells like puke,” I wrote in my notes.
Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer
Average rating: 3.3/5
Best flavor: Cucumber Lime
Worst flavor: Spicy Pineapple
Michelob was the dark horse of this tasting, presenting us with some inventive flavors that were genuinely refreshing. The cucumber lime gave us spa vibes (“makes me feel at peace,” I wrote). The peach pear was lively and perfumed in a good way, like “peach ring candies liquefied,” said Josh.
The spicy pineapple, however, disappointed us a little with its lack of spiciness. And its bark was worse than its bite: while smelling intensely of pineapple, it tasted of little at all. More like “water with a hint of pineapple,” said Michelle.
Truly Iced Tea Hard Seltzer
Average rating: 3.6/5
Best flavor: Peach
Worst flavor: Strawberry
It pains me to present Truly Iced Tea as the highest-rated seltzer we tried, because in this case, I was the sole dissenting voice among my fellow tasters. To me, each flavor was cloying, a sweet tea with an exclamation point after the sweet. But this tasting was a democracy, so I give you my colleagues’ unfiltered comments.
This was the one hard seltzer we tried that wasn’t clear — instead, it was a dark orange, the color of actual iced tea.
“21-year-old me would like it,” said Dianne of the strawberry flavor. (“Yuck,” I wrote.)
“This is the tea you can get your grandma drunk on,” said Michelle of the lemon flavor. (“Yuck,” I wrote.)
“This has a complex peachiness to me,” said Josh. “Tastes ... comforting.” (“Yuck,” I wrote.)
In conclusion: White Claw forever.More Food + Drink
Source : https://www.sfgate.com/bars/article/SF-sommelier-hard-seltzer-tasting-ranking-best-16335744.php6022