With summer right around the corner, many traditional beer drinkers are looking for lighter alternatives. In recent years, hard seltzer has increasingly been the alternative of choice. Hard seltzer offers a light, low-cal, low-carb alternative to beer that appeals to health-conscious drinkers. For those who want to try their hand at creating a home brewed version of hard seltzer, the team at Cheers All explains how you can brew your own alcoholic soda water.
The Rise of Hard Seltzer
Originally introduced in 1993 by Coors, the citrus-flavored, crystal-clear malt beverage Zima was arguably the first well-known malt-based alternative to traditional beer. Like the popular malt-based wine coolers of the 1980s, Zima was officially classified as beer for tax purposes but had little in common with traditional beers. Zima was officially retired in 2008, only to make a comeback in 2017. More recently, Miller-Coors’ launched their hard seltzer line, Bon & Viv, Oskar Blues came out with Wild Basin, and smaller breweries like Mother Earth Brewing introduced Sercy Spiked & Sparkling into the market.
How to Make Your Own Alcoholic Soda Water
Hard seltzer is made with alcoholic soda water and a variety of flavorings. There are two methods you can use at home to make your own alcoholic soda water:
Also referred to as “sugar wash” or “sugar ferment” this is simply a mix of sugar, water, and yeast. When yeast strands come into contact with sugar, it feeds on the sugar and over time converts the sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide (CO2). Within a few hours, the yeast colony begins to grow and feeds rapidly on the sugar. The process ends when there are no more sugars for the yeast to feed on, usually within 3-7 days. You then add water back into the sugar wash before bottling or kegging. The biggest potential problem with the method is that unless you have a very sophisticated reverse-osmosis (RO) system and a filtration system at home, the resulting alcohol will likely have a white-wine note to it. Once you carbonate it, it will not have the completely clear taste that comes with pure seltzer.
The other way to make alcoholic soda water is really mixing instead of brewing. Take a grain-fermented spirit, such as vodka or Everclear, and mix it with water until you hit the 4.5-6% ABV range, where most of the commercial hard seltzers fall. Then carbonate to 3 volumes of C02 because you want the strong fizz, which adds to the overall mouthfeel and experience.
Once you have your base alcoholic soda water, you will undoubtedly want to add flavoring. Without that you essentially just have soda water with an alcoholic kick to it. Moreover, if you are trying to replicate what is commercially available, you can add anything lime and coconut to blueberry lemonade.
Adding flavor to your homemade alcoholic soda water can be accomplished in several ways. If you brewed your soda water using the sugar wash method, try cold-steeping fruit before carbonation to add flavor. You can also add cold-steeped fruit to the alcohol prior to blending if you chose to go the mixology route. The simplest way to add flavor, however, is to use flavored vodka in the blending process. Flavored vodka can be found in everything from cinnamon to tropical fruit.
You also have the ability to let your guests choose their flavorings. Once your alcoholic soda water is brewed and ready to go, simply set up a buffet of flavor options, such as fresh fruits and spices, that can be added in by your guests.
If you are a craft beer drinker, visit the Cheers All website to purchase glassware and other merchandise geared toward beer lovers.