Is a seltzer a beer?
Short answer: No. Long Answer: Nooo. But at Blue Owl Brewing, we still love the possibilities of what a “craft seltzer” can be.
Let’s set aside all the usual seltzer-bashing, strong emotions, talks of trends, and secret seltzer drinking when no one is looking. Let’s instead focus on what a seltzer ~is~ and what a seltzer ~can be~. No matter what a beverage is made with or made how I like to look at the core features that give them value. Seltzers are (generally) lower calories and are easy to drink. That tends to be what all the big bev companies like to spout, right? 100 Calories. 99 Calories. Refreshing. And every synonym therein.
When we first started experimenting with seltzer brewing at BOB, we realized it wasn’t as simple as we thought. We dumped our first 2 batches. But if anyone knows me, they know if there’s a challenge, well, I’m all in. Simply put, the challenge is to create something neutral, clean, and simple that will allow whatever flavors to be added to the top. There are a lot of funky, farty, non-natural flavors and aromas that can come along with trying to ferment pure sugars. Oh, also, let’s set aside the types of seltzers that are created by diluting down spirits. They’re simply that — diluted and carbonated vodka. Nothing wrong with that. Just sayin’, let’s talk about the seltzers that are fermented sugars.
The “Mexican Martini” uses lime and orange extracts on top of a heavy dose of bright citric acid to achieve the refreshing goal. But we go a little kooky after that. We add a homemade mixture of olive brine to the seltzer to provide a salty, savory accent that any good Austinite knows is the signature of a classic Trudy’s Mexican Martini cocktail (but at least here you don’t have to remember to hold the top of the shaker on!). The result is a fun, crafty, way to go back to our goal of low-calorie, no-sugar, vegan, gluten-free beverage that still has some damn character.
How about a light, refreshing, alternative to sucking down a bunch of beers around the pool-side this summer? Well, that doesn’t mean you have to drop the, arguably, best part of beer — hops. We set out to figure a way to add an appreciable amount of hop flavor to a seltzer while still keeping the goal of light and refreshing. It was harder than we thought. Six months’ worth of trials and we finally honed in getting the right hop flavor without harshness or bitterness from that hop addition. We have to impress the point that hops without the beer part don’t taste or act as you’d think. If you’ve had bad hop water that just tastes like bitter tea water, you know what I mean. But using proper hopping techniques with modern hop technology, you can still get a seltzer that simply has a floral, citrusy, flavor while still being easy to drink.
So to go back to the point in all of this, we hope that people start to “appreciate” seltzers for what they are — and what they aren’t. Used simply as a tool for light-and-refreshing, you don’t have to overthink them. You don’t have to abandon all hope for craft beer. Just accept them as they are and move on to the important things in the summer…like who do you know that has a pool.