On Jan. 7, 2020, Truly Hard Seltzer announced it was launching a new line of products: Truly Lemonade Hard Seltzer.
On the face of it, the release seemed almost identical to its existing hard seltzer options. Each 12-ounce serving contains just 100 calories, one gram of sugar, and 5 percent ABV — exactly the same as Truly Hard Seltzers.
But the difference arrives in the flavor profile of the release, according to Truly, which it describes as “a mix of hard seltzer and lemonade” that delivers “the crisp, clean taste of hard seltzer and bolder lemonade flavor.”
Produced by Boston Beer, one of the country’s biggest craft brewers, the product launched nationwide in a variety pack containing four different flavors: Original Lemonade, Black Cherry Lemonade, Mango Lemonade, and Strawberry Lemonade.
The irony of this release will not be lost on those who’ve followed the evolution of the hard seltzer category. Nutritional values aside, Truly Lemonade is, essentially, a carbon copy of Mike’s Hard Lemonade – produced Mark Anthony Brands, which also makes White Claw.
Like all hard seltzers, Mike’s Hard Lemonade is a flavored malt beverage (FMB) – a drink that gains its alcohol content by brewing cane sugar. But Mike’s was on the market long before the advent of the hard seltzer category. In the ever-evolving FMB landscape, Mike’s Hard Lemonade was the OG.
Long story short, not only is Boston Beer now trying to compete with Mark Anthony Brands on both the hard seltzer and hard lemonade fronts, within just a few years of the birth of the hard seltzer category, we’ve essentially come full-circle back to Mike’s Hard Lemonade, with just one notable difference:
“Compared to current in-market hard lemonades that carry more than 30 grams of sugar and 220 calories per 12-ounce serving, Truly Lemonade has a fraction of the sugar and calories without sacrificing any flavor,” the brand says in its press release. (In case you’re wondering, those numbers mimic the exact nutritional value of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.)
But how do the two compare?
On Thursday afternoon, a group of five VinePair staff members blind-tasted Truly’s Lemonade Hard Seltzer alongside Mike’s Hard Lemonade to determine which is best. Here’s what our tasters had to say.
Mike’s Hard Lemonade vs. Truly Lemonade Hard Seltzer
The first difference between the two drinks is their color. Mike’s Hard pours an inviting cloudy, icy hue, similar to Minute Maid lemonade. Truly Lemonade, by comparison, looked much less appetizing. “If I saw this in a clear bottle on a shelf, I’d be like, ‘Is there something wrong with this?’” one taster commented. Another thought that it looked like “dirty shower water.”
There were further distinctions when it came to each drink’s aromas. Most tasters thought Mike’s Hard smelled like actual lemonade, albeit commercially-produced, artificial lemonade, rather than the freshly-squeezed style mom serves on a hot summer day.
As for Truly, descriptors ranged from “chemicals” to “litter box” to “passionfruit — but not in a good way.” No one thought the drink smelled anything like lemons or lemonade.
The most noticeable difference between the two drinks, however, is their flavor. Mike’s Hard is significantly sweeter, which is no surprise given the fact it contains 30 times the amount of sugar. But it is extremely palatable, especially when tasted alongside Truly’s offering, which was dominated by the flavor of stevia. “It tastes like diet Sprite,” one panelist said.
One consolation for Truly Lemonade is its effervescence, which is much livelier than Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It’s a characteristic most tasters were looking for from this style of drink.
What Do The Different Flavors Of Truly Lemonade Hard Seltzer Taste Like
Smells like “Juicy Juice” and tastes like “a kids drink” according to VinePair staff. It’s hard to lock down mango on either the nose or the palate — both of which have more of a vague tropical character. But the stevia integrates much more seamlessly in this instance and the majority of the tasters enjoyed it overall. “I would do the ‘White Girl Wasted’ version of this and add vodka,” one panelist said.
This hard lemonade once again skews towards products that usually appeal to kids. “It tastes like a push pop,” according to one taster, while others thought it had a bathroom-product-like perfume. All agreed that it closer resembled raspberry than strawberry in character.
Black Cherry Lemonade
This one got a big thumbs down from everyone on the panel, largely because of its overpowering Robitussin flavors and aromas. “That’s awful and I usually love cherry,” one taster said, while another simply commented, “This is harsh.”
If you’re looking for a bonafide alcoholic lemonade, there’s only one winner: Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Yes, it contains more than double the calories and significantly more sugar than Truly’s offering, but it sticks truer to the hard lemonade category.
If you regularly drink diet sodas, however, and find traditional hard seltzers slightly too dry for your palate, Truly Lemonade Hard Seltzer offers an interesting alternative. Our tasters were unanimous in declaring Mango their favorite flavor, followed by Strawberry, and finally Original Lemonade. When it comes to Black Cherry, they said, it’s probably best to pick up a White Claw.