White Claw Conundrum

The topic of White Claw and “hard seltzer” has had me spinning. What is the public doing drinking all this stuff? How is this so popular? My whiskey sipping self could not grasp the phenomenon. Every time I had what I thought was the answer, a new question popped up for me. I believed that this was just a phase in American culture, much like hard lemonade, hard root beer or Zima (my generation’s clear, bubbly beer substitute). However, now that I know more about it, I realize it is going nowhere anytime soon.

This product is made from SUGAR. For the health conscious. That is Truly (pardon the name brand pun) the magic behind the “hard seltzer” boom. Here are a few of the major reasons behind this consumer frenzy.

  1. The American public historically has been a binge culture. Food, drink, obsessions…that’s us, especially if you ask a foreigner. You can drink this hard seltzer like you used to drink beer in college and not suffer the hangover you used to! Magic, right?
  2. The product sells itself as “hard seltzer” implying that it is a replacement for vodka and seltzer- the drink of the healthy drinker, right? Runners, muscle bound folks, the attractive thin person at the bar…they were the vodka and soda drinker.  They may have still been tying one on like everyone else, but they looked more responsible doing it.
  3. The word “hard” or “spiked” implies that it is made with vodka, not the fermented/brewed product that it actually is. It gives a false appearance of American toughness and the companies that make it make no effort to correct the public’s misunderstanding.
  4. It is cheap to make. Brewing beer, even light beer or malted beer substitutes still requires the use of grain. Brewers have often viewed the use of sugar adjuncts in the brewing process as forbidden, but this product doesn’t care about the brewers’ opinions. They are all turning up their noses at it anyway!
  5. Because it is brewed like beer and not made with distilled spirits, it can be taxed like beer. If the same product were made with GNS (grain neutral spirits) it would be taxed about $2 more per six pack. The consumer pays less and doesn’t care what it’s made with.
  6. THIS IS THE BIG ONE. It is not made from grain like beer and all other beer substitutes before it. It is made from SUGAR. This is one of the best drinks to happen to the sugar lobby in a long time. The fermenting of sugar leaves less of that malty, bready taste that one associates with beer and grain. There is much less flavor here.

For those that do not know about the power that the sugar lobby has always held over the public’s health, I urge you to read up it’s history. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/opinion/the-shady-history-of-big-sugar.html The most glaringly detestable thing that they have done is convince the public that it is the fat content of our food that makes us fat, not the sugar content. They have put so much effort behind this lie that they have removed the labeling of sugar content from the percentage of daily values on every food item we buy in the store. Not even the American Heart Association will mention sugar content in our food as being detrimental to our collective health. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/cut-out-added-sugars-infographic

They do mention “added sugars”, but that label is purposefully misleading. http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/natural-and-added-sugars-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/

To be clear, the sugar that is used to make these drinks is fermented, so the drink is still low calorie! The sugar is converted by the yeast during fermentation into alcohol. Any added sugar in these “hard seltzers” is added as flavoring, so it maintains its low-calorie appeal. The sugar industry has found a new way to sell large amounts of sugar to us. They don’t care how its consumed, they just need to keep us buying.

This product checks all the American boxes. Easy to binge? Check. Easy to advertise to the new millennial generation? Check. Do the health-conscious gluten-free folks love it? Check. Will the barbequing, red-blooded American men drink it? Check. (I guess) Is it something women will buy? CHECK. This is not going away anytime soon.