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“It's almost as if the folks in production threw in some summertime good vibes as one of the ingredients."

Grapefruit Hard Seltzer

At Cape May Brewing Company, we’ve been brewing beer pretty well for nearly a decade. We’ve had our ups and downs, our strikes and gutters, our winners and losers, but, for the most part, we’ve done a pretty good job brewing beer.

But, we also know that we exist in an extraordinarily dynamic industry. Things change. Tastes change. Styles come and go, some with more staying power than others. 

And that’s one of the great things about this industry — while we’d probably be fine sticking to brewing only our core brands of Cape May IPA, Coastal Evacuation, Always Ready, Cape May White, and Devil’s Reach, that doesn’t exactly align with our Core Value of Fostering Creativity. The variety of products that we produce is one of the most important aspects of Cape May Brewing Company.

Yet, every so often, a movement in the broader industry comes along and shakes things up a bit. And, you know, we like shaking things up. 

The surge in popularity of hard seltzers was one of them. So, we’re proud to release our entree into the seltzer ring: our Grapefruit Hard Seltzer releases in cans for the first time on Friday, only available through the Brewtique!

“Consumer drinking habits are evolving and seltzer is a big part of that evolution,” says Vice President of Operations Brandon Greenwood. “We think that a Cape May Brewing Company-branded seltzer will resonate with our customer base as well as give them another option outside of traditional beer.”

Seltzers are new and uncharted territory for us, and we wanted to make sure we got it right. Hard seltzers are expected to be 15% of the beer market by the end of the summer — more than double what it was last year. There’s a big market for seltzers and a lot of choices within that market, so we did what we do when we want to make sure we’re getting things exactly right with a new product: we put it through our RAD program.

Brandon thinks we pretty much nailed it right out of the gate with our first RAD iteration of our Grapefruit Hard Seltzer. Yet, practice makes perfect.

“Subsequent iterations in the RAD program were about dialing in the mouthfeel and color,” he says. “Ultimately, what we learned, is that our fans dig our first seltzer offering!”

Furthermore, we knew that we wanted our first seltzer to be grapefruit — a fruit that can be a little tricky to dial in properly.

“We were looking to capture the taste of fresh-squeezed grapefruit with our first seltzer product,” Brandon says. “Grapefruit is a universally recognized flavor and one of the most popular amongst seltzer drinkers, so we thought this was a good place to start. Plus, I really like grapefruit!”

Obviously, brewing a seltzer is a different beast than brewing a beer. No malt. No hops. An entirely new process. 

“In general a seltzer is filtered water, ethanol, and natural flavors,” Brandon explains. “With our seltzers, we add real fruit juice and other natural ingredients to give it a bit more complexity and depth of flavor.” 

However, a seltzer essentially begins as simple syrup: cane sugar dissolved in hot water.

“We add sucrose to water and ferment that out,” Brandon explains. “That’s what gives us our ethanol source.”

In the fermentation process, instead of using one of our house yeasts, we employed a distiller’s yeast.

“A distiller’s yeast produces a lot of ethanol,” he says. “We’re trying to get as much ethanol as we can out of these fermentations. Our average beer fermentation is about 5-8%, but when we’re done with the base we use for seltzers, it’s 22% alcohol before additional water is added.”

However, where we deviate from a typical distiller’s process is that we ferment “cold”, whereas distillers ferment “hot” — meaning that we ferment at a controlled temperature to minimize the production of esters and higher alcohols.

“Both of which have a considerable impact on flavor,” Brandon continues, “and we want the ethanol we produce for our seltzers to be as neutral in flavor as possible.”

An added benefit is that sucrose from cane sugar does not contain gluten, so our seltzers are gluten-free! Cha-ching!

And we’re thrilled with how our first seltzer came out! We asked our Warehouse Manager — and resident seltzer queen — Polly Pollock-Bell her thoughts.

“The perfect description for this tart refreshing hard seltzer is ‘it’s lekker!’” she said.

Oh. Yeah. Polly’s from South Africa. Sometimes she uses words that don’t you don’t usually hear outside of South Africa. 

Lekker,” she tells us, “is South African slang for yummy, or delicious, or tasty.”

High praise!

“The notable differential factor with our seltzer is its awesome pink color,” she says. “This seltzer is in a league of its own in terms of flavor. It’s not just a regular seltzer: it’s a cool seltzer, it actually has some serious flavor. The grapefruit comes through true on the nose and then hits the mark on the pallet, too.”

While Polly loves it, we know that generally speaking, seltzers are a hard sell for your hardcore beer drinkers. 

“Sometimes neither beer nor a mixed drink is going to get the job done,” Brandon says. “This is where the seltzer comes in.”

Polly agrees.

I was and still am a firm beer drinker,” she says. “Beers are the best! But working at a brewery and drinking copious amounts of it… well… I heard that summer was on the way, and I needed to find a lower carb option.”

Coming in at only 97 calories and three grams of carbs, our Grapefruit Hard Seltzer is perfect if you want to maintain that summer bod.

“For the consumer that has decided to count calories,” Polly continues, “I say try our Grapefruit Hard Seltzer. There is no point in ruining beer to make it lower in carbs. Let’s just leave beer alone. So, instead, try something completely different so you won’t be longing for beer. You have an entirely independent option: our Grapefruit Hard Seltzer. It’s fewer calories but still packs a punch.”

And, as the dog days of a decidedly weird summer are upon us, our Grapefruit Hard Seltzer is light and spritzy and ridiculously refreshing — perfect for days on the beach or working in the yard.

“Sunny skies and stellar warm temperatures with probably summer’s most iconic fruit: grapefruit,” Polly says. “It’s almost as if the folks in production threw in some summertime good vibes as one of the ingredients. Grapefruit Hard Seltzer is basically a summer vacation in your mouth.” 

Grapefruit Hard Seltzer releases on Friday in the Brewtique — available for online orders beginning Thursday night — $9.99 + tax per six-pack. 

Don’t miss out!