When you walk into Superstar Beverage in Huntington Station, maybe in search of some beer, it's impossible to ignore the elephant in the room: A tower of stacked hard seltzers, right near the entrance.
For the last year or so, canned spiked seltzers such as White Claw and Truly have splashed like a malty wave into millennial hearts and minds. Now two LI breweries have joined the rumpus: Great South Bay Brewery and Montauk Brewing Co., each of whom released their own spiked seltzers in the last few weeks.
"It's something we were thinking about for a while, and when the seltzer boom hit, it kind of put a fire under our butts," said Ryan Randazzo, director of special projects for Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore. That boom is the meteoric rise of canned malt-based cocktails and hard seltzers, whose sales exploded in 2019, primarily among younger drinkers. (From 2019 to 2019, sales of malt-based cocktails spiked by 574 percent, according to Nielsen, while hard seltzer sales nearly doubled — to $487.8 million — and canned cocktails rose by 40 percent).
To start their R&D, the team at Great South Bay tasted across the field of existing hard seltzers; once they settled on a base for their own version, they "tasted 50 to 60 flavors internally," Randazzo said, whittling those to 30 or so.
Those contenders, in turn, were poured in the brewery during a two-week period in December when customers could vote on their favorites. It yielded four winners: Sour Cherry, Pineapple, Sparkling Lemonade and Watermelon, each made with fruit juices in the malt beverage style, meaning a fermented base is combined with water and then force-carbonated.
Dubbed Spiked, the seltzers are 100 calories per can and 5 percent alcohol (the same ballpark strength as beer), and ring in at $15.99 per 12-can sampler. Barely sweet and only subtly fruity, the Sour Cherry is the most distinctive, with the Sparkling Lemonade version barely a few steps removed, flavor-wise, from a seltzer you might sip at your desk.
Farther east, Montauk Brewing Co. also released its own spiked seltzer earlier this winter, Montauk Hard Seltzer, which comes in a slimmer can and at 4.5 percent alcohol is slightly gentler on the booze-scale; when the company announced its imminent drop (in a suite of four flavors: Lemon-Lime, Black Cherry, Mixed Berry and Raspberry-Lime) the post went crazy on Instagram, garnering 9,436 likes and thousands of comments. "DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE," wrote one.
Both brewery's seltzers are sold at spots across Long Island, and Great South Bay's is also available at the brewery at 25 Drexel Drive in Bay Shore.