What Is a Seltzer Beer?
We throw many titles around with all the new fancy beverages to enjoy on the shelves. Where once we had beer, wine, and liquor to choose from, today we have energy wine coolers, ciders, seltzers, and more.
Then there’s seltzer beer. What is seltzer beer, anyway?
What Is Beer?
First, we have beer. A brew that has been around as long as humans have been domesticated.
We built shelters, rerouted waterways, irrigated fields, domesticated animals, and made beer.
For 10,000 years humans have been crafting this fermented grain drink that has really not changed much from those early days.
Grain is malted or kilned, unlocking the sugars in the grain, and then the grain is ground or cracked to expose those sugar.
The malted, cracked grain is then boiled in water and steeped to release all the fermentable sugars into the water. Hops are added for a bit of bitterness. Up to this point, this liquid mixture is referred to as “wort.”
The solid matter is then “sparged,” or strained and rinsed to leave only the liquid.
Finally, yeast is either added or allowed to naturally attract to the sugars in the wort, which they will consume for energy, expelling alcohol and carbon dioxide as waste products, a process called fermentation.
In the end, you get this grain-rich, bready, caramelly drink that can have floral and citrus notes and be a source of tons of nutrients and vitamins. It was a salvation for families with no other way to provide hydration and nourishment even to their children for generations.
What is Seltzer?
Seltzer, in contrast, is fermented sugar water with added fruit purees or extracts for flavor.
It is a new, trendy beverage aimed at those who love a nice drink without all the calories or heaviness.
To make seltzer, brewers will boil sugar in water and add yeast.
The yeast will consume the sugars and convert them to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Then, brewers will filter out the color and sediment to create a clear liquid.
Finally, an extract or puree will be added for flavor and the beverage will be force carbonated.
The result is a low calorie, light, bubbly drink with a relatively low ABV, usually around 4% or 5%.
There Is no such Thing as a Seltzer Beer
But, as far as seltzer beer, there really is no such thing. There is seltzer, and there is beer. There is no in combination of the two, and, aside from them both being fermented drinks, they really could not be further apart.
What is likely coming up when the term seltzer beer is used is the fact that many beer companies, like Budweiser and Corona, produce a hard seltzer line. Thus, beer and seltzer get lumped in together.
But they are not the same, and there is no such thing as seltzer beer.
What’s the Difference between Seltzer and Beer?
The biggest differences between seltzer and beer are the ingredients. Seltzer is made with sugar. Beer is made with grain and hops.
All other differences stem from that distinction.
The vitamins and nutrients in beer vastly outweigh those in seltzers, with beers coming in high in B vitamins, folate, choline, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, potassium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin K, and so much more, including some essential amino acids.
In contrast, hard seltzer is only touted as a healthy drink because it is lower in calories. It has no nutritional benefits.
Furthermore, while seltzer has 30 calories per 100 ml on average, the average beer only has 45 calories per 100ml, and if you’re drinking in moderation and eating an otherwise healthy diet, you’re only looking at an extra 50 to 100 calories.
That’s not a big enough difference, especially considering all the nutritional benefits of beer, to choose seltzer.
Why Do People Drink Seltzer Beer?
Still, some people simply enjoy drinking seltzer, or they really are focused strictly on the calories in their diets.
It’s perfectly okay to choose seltzer over beer, even if it is just a flavor preference or a bubbly factor.
The only point important to make is that seltzer is not beer, it is not beer adjacent, and there is no such thing as seltzer beer.
Brewers: Beer or Hard Seltzer?
For brewers, it would be an interesting experiment to play with various grains and hops, as well as fun adjuncts like fruit purees and other flavorings and then to experiment with similar flavorings in the brewing of hard seltzer.
You already have the equipment you need to brew beer, and you can use the same equipment for hard seltzer, though you might need to invest in a filtration system to remove color and flavor.
The bottom line is, you don’t have to choose between brewing beer or hard seltzer, which is why so many beer companies have jumped on board the seltzer band wagon.
You can start with small batches, create your ideal clear seltzer, and then figure out which direction you want to take in terms of added flavors and aromas.
Many hard seltzers have fruit flavors, but you could also experiment with herbs and florals to see where that takes you.
The key, always, is to have fun and work with your taste testers to see what works.
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