Spiked seltzer is coming for our sports stadiums and screens. In the past month or so, three hard seltzer brands — Anheuser-Busch’s Bon & Viv and Natural Light Seltzer, and Boston Beer’s Truly Hard Seltzer — announced official partnerships with the National Football League and National Hockey League, respectively.
Bon & Viv became the official spiked seltzer of the NFL in late August, while Natural Light Seltzer announced last week it will become the official hard seltzer of the NCAA’s Big 12 Conference. Also last week, Boston Beer announced its five-year partnership with the NHL.
(To give credit where it’s due, Vive, by Covington, Ky.’s Braxton Brewing, started the seltzer sponsorship trend when it became the official hard seltzer of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals in mid-August.)
These sponsorships are a sign of the times. Hard seltzer sales are growing in the triple digits, and sports partnerships allow these brands to stay top-of-mind as their summery vibes wear off and fall and winter sports kick off. Will stadium sales of these seltzer brands outpace that of light beers? It’s very possible. Low-calorie, easy-drinking (some might say, watery) macro lagers have been ubiquitous in-stadium staples and tailgate essentials for decades. Spiked seltzer isn’t Bud Light — not yet, anyway — but it occupies a similar space in our hearts, minds, and koozies.
Non-Alcoholic Beers Are Buzzing
In the coming months, two breweries with global footprints will introduce new non-alcoholic (NA) beers: Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Special Effects, and MillerCoors’ Coors Edge.
Brooklyn Special Effects, a hoppy lager-style NA beer, will launch nationally in January 2020. It was previously released in Brooklyn’s European markets, including Sweden, where it debuted in December 2018. In less than a year, Special Effects has become Brooklyn Brewery’s fourth-largest brand in Europe, according to a press release. Coors Edge, released in Canada last year, will replace Coors Non-Alcoholic and will be available in the U.S. in November 2019.
These brands join a roster of other NA beers from major labels, including Heineken 0.0, Pabst Blue Ribbon Non-Alc, Clausthaler, and a growing number of craft breweries focusing specifically on NA offerings. (See: Athletic Brewing Run Wild IPA, dubbed by yours truly as one of the most important IPAs of 2019.) Breweries have been producing NA offerings for a long time, and as more consumers experiment with sobriety and moderation, Big Beer is ready for us.
What’s Happening to Boston’s Breweries?
Last Friday, Mystic Brewery of Chelsea, Mass., announced it will be closing its doors. The Boston-area brand, which started out selling acclaimed saisons and farmhouse ales, then later transitioned into line-inspiring IPA releases, will “discontinue brewing operations and intends to wind things down over the next few weeks,” Bryan Greenhagen, founder and brewer, wrote in a Facebook post.
Additionally, Everett, Mass.’s Down the Road Beer Co. is indefinitely closed following the death of its founder, Donovan Bailey; and Somerville, Mass.’s Somerville Brewing, producer of Slumbrew, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. (Hat tip to VinePair contributor Matt Osgood for the intel on those last two.)
Much of this can be attributed to competition and a changing craft beer marketplace. But what’s really up, Boston? Are the Trilliums, Tree Houses, and, dare I say, Truly Hard Seltzers, putting small Massachusetts brewers out of business?