Hard Sodas are pushing the boundaries of the craft beer movement
Ah, America: the place where liquor, beer and cocktails just simply aren’t enough. We like to have choices, which is completely understandable, and that’s one of the main reasons the hard soda market has become such a popular endeavor by people who may not like beer, prefer drinks with a variety of tasty flavors, or are simply interested in trying something new.
Hard sodas, as the name suggests, are alcoholic beverages that are crafted to taste similar to the classic sodas we know and love. Hard sodas are technically a form of “craft beer” (but don’t let that scare you off) that are created in the style of a soft drink. Some of the leading brands in the hard soda industry include Not Your Father’s, Henry’s Hard, Best Damn and Coney Island.
The brand that helped set the hard soda market into motion was Not Your Father’s Root Beer. It’s brewed by Small Town Brewery and was released for a second time in 2015, which is when it really took off. Pabst isn’t the only beer producer getting in on the hard soda market, though; MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch and Boston Beer are also crafting their own line of hard sodas to compete with Not Your Father’s.
When it comes to the way in which hard sodas are actually brewed, there are two different types, according to Allison Hageman of outandaboutnow.com. There are malt beverages, like Best Damn and Henry’s, and then there are gruit ales, like Not Your Father’s.
Flavored malt beverages are fermented, like beer, but they have flavors added in to create the taste of soda. On the contrary, gruit ales are brewed with spices and botanicals but without hops, giving them the taste of soda instead of the taste of beer.
The flavors of hard sodas available in the hard soda market have grown substantially since Not Your Father’s Root Beer took off in 2015. Some of the most popular and well-known are root beer (of course), ginger ale and orange soda. Now that the market has made a name for itself in the alcohol industry, there’s even cherry cola, ginger beer and spiked seltzers, to name just a few.
However, no discussion on hard soda would be complete if I didn’t offer an analysis on some of the different brands and flavors, so in the spirit of sampling the hard soda market, I stopped at a local convenience store and purchased a few on my way home.
The three flavors selected were Henry’s Hard Ginger Ale, Henry’s Hard Orange Soda, and Best Damn Root Beer. Henry’s Hard Ginger Ale was my favorite of the three. I’ve always loved the taste of ginger ale, and adding in alcohol was the correct move; thanks, Henry’s Hard. The orange soda and root beer were also both quite tasty and full of flavor.
The flavors were extremely reminiscent of those we know and love from our childhoods. The soda flavor did an excellent job of masking most of the alcohol taste, but ranging between 4.2 and 5.9 percent alcohol by volume, all hard sodas on the market have a bit of a kick, reminding us that we are, unfortunately, adults now; however, we all deserve an adult version of our favorite childhood soft drinks every now and then.
Although I didn’t quite manage to sample every hard soda on the market, if the three I did try are any indication of the rest of the market, then I can definitely understand why hard soda has taken off as quickly as it has.
Giving people who may not like beer, or who are simply interested in trying something new, an alternative that tastes like the sodas we all know and love means that the future of hard sodas is surely promising.