2020 has played out like the ending of The Cabin in the Woods. Absurdity is the new normal, and dystopian tropes are now commonplace. It’s hard to take anything seriously anymore. Concerns about alcoholism and gym closures have forced us to switch to a lower calorie form of self-medication. Alcohol trends and style superiority be damned: now is not the time to pontificate the purity of cider or the encroaching fall of wine. Now is not the time for highlighting privileged beer releases or annoying self-righteous cocktails. Now is the time for virtual brand violence. Fifteen shelved hard seltzers (there were a few sneaky red herrings) enter the thunderdome, but only one can be the house favorite.
15. New Belgium + Primus Mural Agua Fresca Cerveza
Shouldn’t really be on this list, as it does not claim to be a seltzer, but was sold to me as a seltzer and is so bad that a PSA is required. It’s actually watered-down, vapid beer water, the kind that you see breweries dump from their sink drains. NB is to beer as EA is to video games.
This is truly (all the puns) the worst seltzer that I’ve ever had. At best, it tastes like thin, vinaceous natural wine. At worst, it brings on an intense gag reflex when brought within two hand lengths of your mouth. I couldn’t find a single at the shop I visited, so I am punished with a case of these. I attempted to taste each flavor. If anyone wants them, hit me up.
I had heard some high marks from friends with this mega brand seltzer, but, sadly, it flopped harder than our economy. Everything is just a touch under mediocre, but I still want this around. I have since finished the case.
All those fancy flavors are just a ruse to get you in on the newest essential oil. It tastes like your Crossfit friend’s breath. Skip hard.
This tied with Press, but I’m slotting the Smir under in rating, as its only higher mark was crushability. This is supremely crushable.
Flavor and aroma on point, but the extra sweetness is a bit offputting. A solid 1-er luncher. Two if you can handle the sweetness.
9. Willie’s Superbrew
This is not a seltzer. They’re lucky that it tastes great, otherwise I would have knocked this right off the list. The sulfite off gassing is aggressive, so pour this into a glass to remedy the nose burning. Disclaimer: the brand rep was at Wegman’s, and convinced me to cop this overpriced, watered-down kombucha.
8. Blue Light
A solid seltzer, and the first on this list that actually matters. A great aroma and decent scores for flavor, balance, and crushability brings this (massive) local bad boy to the first layer of the cream that sits atop the murky, bro elixir. It tastes like MIO and vodka in an old Blue Light can.
7. Natty Light
My true favorite. The sample for this tasting had out-of-the-park notes of peach rounds and that one hook-up you wish didn’t happen. Suffers in score due to balance. The Natty is
a bit hot.
6. White Claw
With all the new brands jumping into the thunderdome, the OG smells and tastes as mediocre as its brand feels these days. Balance and crushability shows the rest what kind of standard the original hard water GOAT set, though.
5. Bon & Viv
The Boat Boy. The friend that slums with you, but could go back to their parents cabin on the lake. Mineral water and lemon meringue. The LaCroix of hard seltzers.
This was a hard one. Cutwater actually tied with Bud, but is falling back due to the kind of product that it is. As a beverage, or canned cocktail, Cutwater is one of the best, but as a crushable hard seltzer, it fell down due to balance. A beautiful, delicate mineral finish that lingered like a wine. The fruit was subtle like the cucumber water I sneak drinks of at the spa I can’t afford to go to.
3. Bud Light
At its best, Bud is the greatest option on the shelf. At Bud’s worst, it’s a mediocre, over-boozy, corporate cash grab that really shouldn’t be as expensive as it is. It’s a standard at the winery, and I don’t feel shame when I crack one, but I do drink it with a little self hate.
Truly was my first hard seltzer love. The alt-Claw for baddies. The Green Power Ranger. One point away from perfect; the alcohol is a bit present to score a perfect dub. Truly Lemonades are the true true, but they do not belong in a strictly hard seltzer list (I’m looking at you Willie’s).
1. High Noon
A perfect double sawbuck is a rare score. Achieving this requires a mastery in chemical flavor additives, with superior volatility, a seemingly nonexistent alcohol, and a crushability that can only end in a post drunk-crying induced nap and a wicked sunburn.