Journalism can be a tough business, and sometimes you get an unappealing assignment that you just have to power through.
That's not this one. This time, the Austonia team assembled under perfect conditions—a 102-degree Austin afternoon, poolside, under shade—for a label-on tasting of seven authentic Austin hard seltzers.
The tasters were the usual suspects from the top of Austonia's site, plus beverage industry veteran and guest taster, Austinite Federico Martinez. The age range was 21 to embarrassed-to-admit, evenly divided between women and men.
Prior to commencing the tasting, we cleared our palates with Topo Chico and sipped some White Claw Mango to create a reference flavor.
You can't go wrong with any of these hometown heroes. They're all built to be consumed in multiples, with varying flavors and sweetness, but with a thirst-quenching flavor profile in common.
As these beverages are all Austin-based, we wanted every single one to get a trophy. And they did. But we are calling out our most and least favorites, in the interest of journalistic integrity.
From first to last place, here are our ratings:
Ranch Rider Spirits Co., Ranch Water
6% alcohol, 119 calories, 1.5g carbs, gluten free, tequila
Our winner! All five amateur tasters ranked it #1, and our professional taster ranked it #2, after Mighty Swell. This cocktail-in-a-can consists of reposado tequila, sparking water and lime juice.
Created by two University of Texas MBA students who started a food truck before figuring out the real money is in booze.
Tasting notes: "tequila aroma," "very natural flavor," "subtle," "like a light (not sweet) margarita," "solid drink", "like being buried in warm sand," "for a tequila lover on a hot day"
Mighty Swell Spiked Spritzer, Grapefruit
5% alcohol, 110 calories, 4g carbs, gluten free, alcohol from sugar
An expertly-branded big money favorite, from the founder of Sweet Leaf tea (sale price undisclosed) and Deep Eddy Vodka (est. sale price $150M - $300M), along with other industry veterans.
This is the only one of the seven that's packaged in the tall, slim can used by White Claw.
Tasting notes: "great aromatics," "real grapefruit flavor," "aftertaste!," "no after flavor," "not overly sweet," "sugary," "natural and fresh"
Canteen Spirits Vodka Soda, Watermelon
5% alcohol, 99 calories, 0g carbs, gluten free, vodka
Another ringer. This vodka soda is from founders of Deep Eddy Vodka, Treaty Oak Whiskey and Waterloo Sparkling Water. Seed investors include a mix of Texas and Tennessee music celebs, and professional investors include Dan Graham's (BuildASign, $280M sale to Vistaprint parent) Springdale Ventures.
Tasting notes: "refreshing," "not real flavor," "super fizzy," "Jolly Rancher flavor," "soft flavor," "smooth and light," "could knock some back on a hot day"
Blue Norther Hard Seltzer, Wild Blackberry
5% alcohol, 110 calories, 5g carbs, gluten free, alcohol from sugar
The product of a father-son team, both named ... you know where this is going ... Austin.
Tasting notes: "uncommon flavor," "real juice," "too sweet," "almost syrupy," "I can feel my future hangover"
Austin Eastciders Spiked Seltzer, Black Cherry
4.2% alcohol, 100 calories, 5g carbs, gluten free, hard apple cider
Punny name. From English transplant Ed Gibson, who came from "cider country" to East Austin. Visit him on Barton Springs Road, in the old Uncle Billy's.
Tasting notes: "tart, nice flavor," "mix with cough syrup," "good flavor," "sparkly," "smells like a popsicle"
Austin Seltzer, Hard Black Raspberry
4% alcohol, 85 calories, alcohol from organic cane sugar
Little information is known about this new brand, but it should be noted that each pack comes with an assortment of flavors, so each taster tried a different flavor.
Tasting notes: "watery," "almost like water," "candy aftertaste," "ghost flavor," "light", "not fully formed," "I could drink it all day"
Shotgun Spiked Seltzer, Ranch Water
6.9% alcohol, 164 calories, 3g carbs, gluten free, alcohol from cane sugar and agave
Sorry, but there has to be a loser, and this was it. Five of six tasters rated it last.
From a wife and husband team working from their space in Cuernavaca. Their major investor is a Texas hero—the founder of Big Ass Fans, which sold for $500 million in 2017. Time to put a couple mil back into product development.
Tasting notes: "not fresh," "musty," "aftertaste," "rough," "chemical-ly," "sour"
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