Hard Seltzer Tasting

Sparkling Seltzer

Hard seltzer is seltzer water with alcohol. It’s a malted beverage, created in a similar way to beer, so it’s not technically liquor.

And it’s huge.

This past Friday, I felt a “tasting” itch. I used to host tastings a lot. I’ve done tastings for:

  • Scotch
  • Butter
  • Gin
  • Chocolate
  • Vodka
  • Sparkling Water
  • Cheese

It’s just so much fun! I think I first learned to like scotch whiskey by trying several samples in succession. Even the butter tasting showed that there’s dimensions to butter you might not normally notice.

Early in the summer, I had held a quickie tasting between Truly and White Claw, two of the biggest hard seltzer brands in the game. But two brands isn’t quite enough, so I hit a few liquor stores and found eight.

The Brands

In alphabetical order, here are the eight candidates (Images courtesy of brands or totalwine.com).

Bravazzi Hard Italian Soda – Blood Orange
Bud Light Seltzer – Strawberry
Crook & Marker – Black Cherry
Fulton Hard Seltzer – Blood Orange
Pabst Blue Ribbon Stronger Seltzer – Lime
Smirnoff Seltzer – Blood Orange
Truly – Wild Berry
White Claw – Black Cherry

The Methodology

We had six participants (well, seven, but one couple shared and ranked together). Each participant received a white 3oz plastic cup with a letter on it (in random order, participants were not aware of what brands were involved). One at a time, each participant received a cup, tasted it, then decided where the newest drink ranked among previous drinks served.

Other caveats:

  • This was single blind, but I was aware of each flavor as they were presented and also a participant, so my rankings are potentially biased.
  • Ties weren’t allowed.
  • Participants did not need to finish each drink before the next came. As such, many participants kept at least half a cup to compare and contrast at the end.

The Results

There are a lot of ways to consolidate rankings, but here’s four, where 1 was considered the “best” and 8 was considered “worst”, so smaller scores are better:

It’s pretty clear the Bravazzi Hard Italian Soda won. It got two first picks, three second place picks, and the worst was two picks at third place. One participant mentioned that perhaps “Hard Italian Soda” is fundamentally different than a hard seltzer.

Smirnoff Seltzer scored the worst, but only because Bud Light Seltzer was saved by a single participant that loved it and ranked it first. So let’s call Bud Light Seltzer polarizing and dump on both brands.

Most interesting for me is that Truly beat out White Claw. In my previous head-to-head competition, White Claw won.

Data is available here, if you were one of the participants and curious what you personally picked.

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