Hard Seltzer Bubbles up in the Hudson Valley

White Claw what? Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie gives the millennial favorite a hyperlocal twist.

Photos by Kimberly Glatz

If you have a millennial at home, then you have probably come across a relatively new beverage called hard seltzer. White Claw and Truly are the two names you may recognize, but the market is, in fact, bubbling.

The category is undergoing “massive, massive growth,” says Larry Stock, founding partner and director of sales for Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie. “According to Nielsen [data], the market grew 200 percent from 2018 to 2019.”

Which is why Mill House is now brewing and selling its own version. Other craft producers have begun to dip their toes in the bubbling market; Hudson Valley Brewery, for instance, released a nonalcoholic, wine-barrel-aged seltzer earlier this year. “The big debate is [whether] this is a fad or a whole new market segment,” Stock explains. “We were arm wrestling whether this was something we wanted to get involved in.” Eventually, the pros outweighed the cons, not least because the same equipment used to make beer is used to make hard seltzer.

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The first batch, a lime seltzer, was born in September. Blackberry debuted in November. They were made with artificial flavorings, but after honing their skills, they plan to use real fruit purees. “We thought, first, let’s make the best baseline seltzer, then play,” he says. “Real fruit and quality sugar puts a craft stamp on it. It won’t look like a White Claw. It will have some cloudiness and color to it.”

Brewer Jamie Bishop

He admits that his partner and brewmaster, Jamie Bishop, needed some convincing to give hard seltzer a try. “Jamie and I are both home brewers, and this challenged his brewing roots,” Stock says. “We’re not mashing barley here, we don’t use hops. He questioned if it was the role of a brewer to make a craft seltzer.”

Now, though, Bishop sees producing a craft seltzer as a challenge. “There is a process and technique behind creating a desirable product, and he is engaging it,” Stock says. “His thing is, if we put our name on the product, to make it the utmost quality we can. We want to make the best damn craft seltzer in the marketplace.”

For now, the craft seltzer will only be available on site since distribution poses its own challenges, but there’s certainly room for growth. Stock, for one, sides with the notion that it won’t be just a fad. “It is much more refreshing than other carbonated beverages in the market,” he says. And it’s not just for the younger crowd or calorie counters either, he promises: “I know I have seen many a manly man who drank a lot of seltzer.”

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