Stop the seltzer stigma

Stop the seltzer stigma

In America’s beer-centered culture, it’s hard for people like me who don’t like beer to enjoy casual drinking with others. There’s an expectation from others that, no matter what your tastes are, you’ll always enjoy a beer.

Thankfully, a new drink on the scene has given those people a new option: alcoholic seltzers. As this drink gains popularity, though, it’s been common to make fun of people who enjoy it.

My personal vendetta against beer has existed for a while. When I lived with my parents, they occasionally offered me sips of their drinks. While there was the occasional red wine, their drink tended to be beer.

And I almost always hated it.

With its stale-cracker taste and acidic smell, I consistently came away from the sip with a furrowed brow and an immediate desire to drink something else to wash out the flavor.

As a result, when I turned 21, I was hesitant to dive into the world of beer. That being said, I felt like I had to. While getting dinner downtown at Fiero Pizza after my birthday, I got a lager to go with my meal. Sadly, the drink tasted just like everything I had experienced before, only furthering my aversion to the drink.

Whenever I tell people about this hatred of beer, they always respond by saying I just need to “find the right one.” I’ve tried many different types of beer — ale, stout, IPA and so on — but none of them have been “the right one,” and for me, there will never be a “right one.”

The main reason beer will never have a place in my fridge is its painfully bitter taste.

While beer used to be made by grains like malt and wheat, nearly every beer on the modern market is brewed with hops. The issue with this change is that hops leave the beer incredibly bitter. While many people enjoy that taste, I find it too aggressive to merit sipping on it.

In addition to the awful taste of the drink, I find it hard to enjoy beer due to the cultural associations it has.

Much like whiskey conjures up the stereotype of old men in hazy clubs smoking cigars, sipping on fancy glasses and talking about “manly” stuff, beer has similar hyper-masculine ties. It’s associated with the image of old farmers sitting on their porch, holding a shotgun while drinking, as well as that of frat boys shotgunning Bud Lights while shirtless. Personally, I don’t aspire to either of those scenarios.

All of these drawbacks of beer led me to seek out a different drink when it came to casual alcohol, and that turned out to be hard seltzers.

Since their entrance into mainstream culture around 2018 and 2019, hard seltzers have become a common alternative to beer, and given their taste, it’s understandable why.

With their base being soda water, hard seltzers have the ability to taste like anything. From simple fruity flavors to bolder ones like toasted marshmallow, the wide variety of seltzer flavors has something for everyone. And, none of them have the bitterness of beer.

What’s annoying for people who like seltzer, then, is how it’s often viewed as illegitimate. As indicated by the wave of jokes that White Claw received during its rise in popularity, some people see the drink as inferior to other forms of alcohol and that it’s not a “true” drink.

For someone like me, who enjoys seltzers because they provide an alternative to beer while having a similar alcohol content, this overall stigma occasionally makes it challenging to enjoy them in a social setting for fear of judgement.

Additionally, because of their surprising boom in popularity, alcoholic seltzers have sometimes been seen as a fad that will ultimately fail. In a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, one sketch leaned into this belief and focused on how random companies were entering the hard seltzer market, from JCPenney to Verizon Wireless to a local dentist, and how absurd the situation was. While hilarious, the sketch shows that many still think of hard seltzers as a novelty.

Although hard seltzers may have gained notoriety as a gimmick, they’ve since evolved into a serious, reputable alcoholic drink. According to research by Forbes, the hard seltzer market had an estimated $4.1 billion in sales during 2020. The investment company Goldman Sachs has predicted that sales will reach $30 billion in sales by 2025.

Given this forecast, it seems clear that hard seltzers will stick around going forward. For people who hate beer and whose tastes don’t fit into the standard, this is a relief. For those like myself who have never doubted the dominance of beer but want to try escaping it’s awful taste, it’s an opportunity to find a drink they actually enjoy.