Over the past few years there has been an increase in malt beverages marketed as hard sodas. Perhaps the best known of these is the incredible rise of Not Your Father’s Root Beer with nearly $7.5 million in sales through the first half of 2015. While many of these hard sodas are produced by the large beer companies, craft breweries are getting in on the act as well.
Hard sodas can trace its roots back to other flavored malt beverages that debuted in the 1990s under names like Hooper’s Hooch and Zima. These fizzy, fruity alcoholic drinks enjoyed brief popularity. Zima, a citrus-flavored drink, was particular popular for its light lemon-lime flavor and modest alcoholic kick. But, the beverages fell from grace when concerns were raised that the manufacturers may be courting underage drinkers with the sweet drinks. A claim that was later nullified when the Federal Trade Commission conducted investigations in both 2001 and 2003. The commission concluded that they “…found no evidence of intent to target minors with the FMB products, packaging, or advertising.”
Hard sodas derive their alcohol in much the same way as beer; through he fermentation of malt. But, unlike beer, the drinks do not exhibit traditional beer flavors. Instead, they are flavored with extracts and added flavorings. The exceptions to this are some root beer and ginger ale flavored hard sodas that use botanicals for fermentation and flavoring. These are called gruits.
The new generation of hard sodas include flavors that are designed to elicit feelings of nostalgia. The Henry’s brand of hard sodas includes flavors such as orange, ginger ale and cherry cola. Marketed as “hard-ish,” the flavors invoke memories of more care-free days while providing a slight alcoholic buzz. Other companies like Nashville, Tennessee-based Wild Ginger Brewing Company, have added drinks designed to resemble Dr. Pepper and lemon-lime sodas. The brewery’s Wild Docta’ is a rich mixture of vanilla, cherry and cola flavors while Wild Sit Russ is based on a citrus soda developed more than 75 years ago.
So, if you are looking to take a break from the indian summer heat with something other than a beer, try one of the many hard sodas currently on the market. You may be surprised at how refreshing they can be!
Here are a few hard sodas you can find in local stores:
Wild Ginger Brewing Company Wild Docta’
Tapping a nostalgic vein with a grown up nod to Rock & Rye soda, this refresher is perfect right out of the can or embellished with a shot over ice.
Henry’s Hard Orange Soda
Bright Valencia orange flavor is the highlight of this sweet refreshing soda. And, at only 4.2% alcohol, you can a few and not forget that there are burgers on the grill.
Coney Island Hard Root Beer
Rich and full of vanilla, licorice, and birch flavors, this 5.8% ABV is definitely not a kiddie drink.