“S” Stands For SELTZERS

WORDS: Krista Hall - Certified Cicerone PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

 Now on trend, seltzers deliver a refreshing alternative to traditional brews when summer sizzles.

Our Beautiful Winter weather is for early morning sunrises, picnics in the parks, BBQs with your mates, lots of salty sandy days on the beach and of course a few brews to combat the heat.  When you’re sun-kissed and parched, nothing is quite as quenching as some sparkling water or perhaps, an alcoholic sparkling water.

A few years ago we were introduced to Seltzers.  The trend to Seltzers was on the rise in the USA and took over 10% of the beer market.  Naturally, Australia usually follows the trends that roll through the States, and in 2019 we started to see them trickle in.  At first, everyone was hesitant to stock them thinking there is no way that people are going to get on board with this, especially in bars and restaurants because nobody knew what they were.   Fast-forward to today, and there is a Seltzer or two on every menu, with fridges full in all the bottleshops.  With the rise of health and well-being and people wanting lower calorie options for the waistline (especially swimsuit season), Seltzers offer a lightly flavoured alcoholic drink that is versatile to drink on its own, or made into a spritz or cocktail.

“What is Seltzer?”, I’m sure you’re thinking.  Essentially, Seltzer just means sparkling (carbonated) water.  The alcoholic Seltzers are sparkling water with alcohol and usually infused with some kind of flavouring and/or sweeteners.  Seltzers can be made in two different ways, either by adding alcohol to sparkling water in the form of a spirit, or naturally fermented.  This is where we get technical. If the alcohol is added, it’s categorised as an RTD and taxed more; if it is fermented, it is taxed less because it’s taxed the same as a beer.

Naturally fermented Seltzers are actually made like a beer.  You take some grain (most use sorghum because it is gluten-free) and ferment it the same way as you do a beer.  Filtering seems to be the toughest part because people want a clear sparkling drink rather than a murky and cloudy beverage.  The loophole to beat the tax man is having to add a pinch of hops to the ferment to classify it as a ‘beer’ and then you don’t get taxed as much.  That’s why when you purchase most 4% Seltzers you pay top dollar because they’re taxed as an RTD. There are only a handful on the market that are naturally brewed.

Choosing a Seltzer can be overwhelming these days, as every brand has come out with its own version.  Grapefruit flavour, grape & strawberry, mango tropical, floral & guava, you name it: so many different flavour profiles.  Some of the Seltzers are sickly sugary from being sweetened by artificial sweeteners; in some, the flavour combinations remind me of cough syrup and some are just not drinkable (in my opinion). And then there are some that are as quenching as a simple sparkling water.

A few of my go-to Seltzers are in our own backyard on the East Coast:

Sunly Seltzer is brewed in Byron Bay under the Fermentum umbrella which is best known for Stone & Wood.  This Seltzer is brewed naturally with native-inspired flavour profiles from the Northern Rivers like Finger Lime & Peach and Blood Orange & Grapefruit.  These are reasonably priced and you can purchase them from most bottleshops around the country.

Fizz, whose name has grown alongside the DJ Fisher, is a local Gold Coast Seltzer that has a tasting room in Miami.  Tropical punch, Green Apple & Lychee and Peach are a couple of my favourites.  In the tasting room, you can sample any flavour and also have cocktails to choose from alongside some snacks to satisfy any afternoon.  Fizz is naturally brewed and available in cans as well as on draught in venues around the Northern Rivers.

Whiteclaw is the best-known brand that was brought over from the States and was the driving force behind the introduction of Seltzers to Australia.  It is a spirit-based Seltzer but made with subtle flavour profiles and very easy drinking.  Grapefruit is my favourite but Mango I’ve heard is their biggest seller.  Aussies and their mangoes!

If lower cals, low to no sugar is what you’re chasing, or something easy and quenching to swig after a salty sea day (or on the beach, let’s be honest), go and give a few Seltzers a try and add some flavour to your life!