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Cartons of White Claw on display at the Round The Clock Deli on Sept. 11 in New York City.
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Whether you like hard seltzer or not, it’s hard to ignore just how popular this refreshing alcoholic beverage became this summer in Colorado and beyond.

But what will become of this fizzy, low-calorie drink now that pool parties are a distant, sunny memory and many of Colorado’s patios are closing up shop for the winter? After the “Summer of White Claw,” is hard seltzer just a passing phase, destined to be stamped out by the cold?

Rachel Woolf, Special to The Denver Post
Adrien Aniceto, center, of Denver, sips a Miami Cocktail Co. “SPRITZ” sample during Fizz Fight, a hard seltzer festival, at the EXDO event center on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Denver.

Not according to the Colorado craft breweries that are competing with big-name seltzer brands like Truly, Bon & Viv and White Claw.

“We certainly don’t see it as a flash-in-the-pan kind of fad,” said Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Boulder-based Upslope Brewing, which began selling its Spiked Snowmelt hard seltzer in May. “We don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.”

The qualities that made hard seltzer popular to begin with — that it’s low-calorie, low-carb, gluten-free and easy to drink — will continue to draw Colorado drinkers, even as the temperatures drop, Hill said. In fact, Upslope is in talks with Colorado ski resorts to get Spiked Snowmelt on tap and in cans behind their bars. Hill said hard seltzer is the perfect après ski or mid-day break beverage, since it won’t weigh you down on the slopes.

“A lot of people do think this is kind of a summer thing,” she said. “But once you see it in front of you after coming down the mountain, you aren’t going to think twice about ordering hard seltzer.”

That being said, Upslope is preparing for a slight slowdown in sales this winter, though the brewery doesn’t plan on changing its production levels, Hill said.

Rachel Woolf, Special to The Denver Post
Upslope Brewing Company’s craft hard seltzer, Spiked Snowmelt, is on display during Fizz Fight, a hard seltzer festival at the EXDO event center on Saturday, Sept. 14 in Denver.

At Elvtd at 5280, the new Olde Town Arvada brewpub specializing in hard seltzers, you can expect to see some new cold weather-inspired hard seltzers on the menu soon. Though he was coy about exactly what flavors are in the works, co-owner Warren Wood hinted they’ll incorporate seasonal spices and different types of tea.

The brewpub is also experimenting with seltzer cocktails incorporating coffee and other flavors.

“We have four or five different styles that we’re going to drop … to give people a nice twist on what they’re used to with the tropical fruity flavors,” Wood said.

On a national scale, hard seltzer sales peaked around Labor Day, when they represented roughly 4 percent of all beer sales by volume in scan data (basically, sales at places like supermarkets and convenience stores), according to Bart Watson, chief economist for the Boulder-based Brewers Association, the nonprofit trade organization for American craft brewers. Over the last year, hard seltzer sales represented roughly 2 percent of beer sales by volume.

It’s still early, but already hard seltzer appears to mirror beer’s cycle on a smaller scale, with sales rising in the summer and dipping in the winter, said Watson.

Rachel Woolf, Special to The Denver Post
A sample of organic sparkling cocktails from Lifted Libations, a brand launched by Denver’s Rocky Mountain Soda Company, is poured for a festival-goer during Fizz Fight, a hard seltzer festival at the EXDO event center on Sept. 14 in Denver.

And while there are some similarities between the two drinks, Watson said hard seltzer sales aren’t necessarily taking away from beer.

“There’s not a huge overlap,” Watson said. “It’s not like every time someone picks up seltzer, they’re putting down a beer … if the craft beer-lover is one group and the seltzer drinker is another, then this may be an opportunity for breweries to introduce their brands to a market they’re not currently in.”

Sales data aside, Watson said he believes hard seltzer has underlying characteristics that will withstand the test of time. He points to steady consumer demand for low-carb and low-calorie products; case in point, Michelob Ultra, with 95 calories per 12-ounce bottle, is now one of the fastest-growing beer brands, Watson said.

That overall shift toward “better for you” alcoholic beverages is one of the main reasons Colorado craft breweries are making the leap into hard seltzer in the first place.

“Hard seltzer is not just a trend, it really is a cultural shift,” said Kyle Ingram, a spokesman for the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective, which includes Oskar Blues.

Wild Basin, Oskar Blues’ hard seltzer, launched in December and quickly began “defying expectations,” Ingram said. It’s now one of the top five best-selling products for all of CANarchy, he added.

Though Wild Basin shipments to distributors have increased every month since the launch, Ingram said it’s too soon to tell what will happen with Wild Basin this winter, though he’s optimistic.

“There is the question of seasonality,” Ingram said. “We don’t quite know. But I don’t believe it’s going to be subject to a severe dip. It’s more about health and wellness and lifestyle versus being just a refreshing summer drink. It goes deeper than that.”

In the same vein, Oskar Blues recently launched One-Y, a 100-calorie, 4 percent ABV hazy IPA. WeldWerks in Greeley also just launched a low-calorie hazy IPA called Fit Bits with 92 calories and 4.4 grams of net carbs.

At the 2019 Great American Beer Festival a couple weeks ago, lighter, lower-calorie and even alcohol-free beers, marketed to the health-conscious, were peppered throughout the Colorado Convention Center. Billing itself as brewery “inspired by athletes and adventurers,” San Francisco’s Sufferfest Beer Company poured beers with 170 calories or less per serving and used buzz-word ingredients like coconut water and bee pollen.

Watson, of the Brewers Association, speculated that this preference for healthier alcoholic beverages may be linked to a big-picture generational shift, which means you’re likely to see plenty of hard seltzers on the shelves of your local grocery and liquor stores for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve got a generation that grew up with craft (beer) and they’re getting a little bit older, they’re looking to perhaps moderate in terms of ABV and calories,” Watson said. “They still want to drink beer, but they’re maybe looking for choices that fit as they get older, start having kids, that sort of thing. There are larger trends going on here, and seltzer has been in the right place at the right time. And it certainly has gained a lot because of that.”

Entertainment Editor Beth Rankin contributed to this report.

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