Summit Suds: A look at the county’s hard seltzer options
Winter may seem like an odd time to release a hard seltzer, but the spring-like temperatures make it a great time to lounge in a hot tub or on a deck with a bubbly beverage in hand. Dillon Dam Brewery was the first local brewery to pour seltzers last summer, and now Breckenridge Brewery has launched a line called Good Company that has five flavors.
Both are offering the beer alternative to tap into the national trend that followed the rise of regular seltzers such as La Croix. Because of liquor laws, the only alcohol served to guests at Breckenridge Brewery’s local pub or Littleton location is what they can make. Though the Dam has a full bar of third-party wine, spirits and cider for varying palates, they needed to ferment their own seltzer as well.
“It went from a million-dollar industry to a billion-dollar industry in a year and a half,” said J.J. Miles, head brewer at the Dam. “Like most trends in the beverage industry, you can either make fun of it or try to make a good one.”
The premise is to brew a tasteless, alcoholic, carbonated beverage that later can be altered with flavors. Breckenridge uses malted rice to give the drink body while yeast ferments the sugar. The Dam doesn’t use any sort of grain and just combines dextrose and vintner’s or distiller’s yeast.
“That’s basically all you do,” Miles said. “You feel like you’re cheating a little bit because there’s no grain involved. There’s no mashing. You just put the sugar in the water, boil it, and then cool it down like normal, add the yeast and let the yeast ferment it down.”
Breckenridge plans to focus on selling Good Company seltzers mainly in Colorado and the surrounding region. Not only are seltzers hot nationwide, but they are also more in demand in Colorado.
“In Colorado, the craft seltzer market is 2.5 times bigger than the national market, as far as sales go,” Todd Thibault of Breckenridge Brewery said. “Here in Colorado, there is more interest in craft seltzers than there is in the whole U.S.”
Thibault thinks part of the reason is due to the rise of healthy, low-calorie drinks. As some breweries toy with the idea of a 100-calorie hazy India pale ale, others can quickly brew a seltzer to fill that niche.
“With Colorado being an active state, craft beer’s calories and carbs just doesn’t quite fit into certain people’s lifestyle,” Thibault said. Each can of Good Company is 100 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrates and 5% alcohol by volume.
The five flavors — apple-pear, black cherry, peach, mountain berry and honeydew — are each inspired by local fruits, such as Palisade peaches or Rocky Ford melons. The brewery couldn’t decide which flavors to cut during the past year or so of development, so it ended up packaging them all as a 15-pack that holds three of each.
Mountain berry is the only one of the five that has a pinkish hue while the rest are perfectly clear. My two favorites of the bunch are honeydew and apple-pear. They’re sweet with a crisp, dry finish reminiscent of cider. Though none of the seltzers have a robust flavor of their designated fruit, the strong aromas pull their weight in completing the illusion.
Meanwhile, the addition of puree was evident in the Dam’s 5.4% ABV blackberry hard seltzer that’s currently on tap. The pint glass swirled with a cloudy, dark red drink that set itself apart from other seltzers I’ve had. The distinct appearance was on purpose, according to Miles, to help make it stand out at the bar.
“I like the color of seltzers, how it brings in a pink or a purple, adds a little something to the other 15 beers I have,” Miles said. “It’s good to have something different. … If I put fruit in any beer, it sells really well.”
Though I didn’t taste the raspberry in the summer, I did have a glass of the mango-peach in the fall. I recall it reminding me of a mimosa and pairing well with the brewery’s brunch.
The blackberry doesn’t have a super intense scent. It’s sweeter than other berry offerings I’ve had but not by a lot. Well-balanced and not too dry, it’s as if the drink was more like Izze sparkling juice rather than La Croix-type seltzer. Miles doesn’t know what his next flavor will be or when it’ll be available, so grab a pint while you can.
Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Explore Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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