White Claw Summer may be dead and gone, but even in the doldrums of winter, brewers are stealthily upping their hard seltzer game. No one really expected the industry to balloon to a billion-dollar business last year, but in 2020, we can expect to see more and more respected names in the craft beer world attempting to take a slice out of Truly and White Claw’s near-total hegemony over the market. The latest and one of the strongest contenders dropped on Friday at Evil Twin’s taproom in Queens.
“A lot of the hard seltzers out there just aren’t that good and we thought maybe we could do it better,” says Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, founder of Evil Twin. “I don’t like to just copy other people, so I wanted to experiment with something different than what had been done before.”
The result is Evil Water, a 4.5% ABV “pastry” seltzer brewed with marshmallows. It’s poured from slickly branded, pastel cans and comes in two flavors. One is reminiscent of straight-up toasted marshmallows, as well as a citrusy variation with lime and white grapefruit.
“We do this to have fun. So we’ve been using marshmallows in some of our pastry stouts and we thought, why not, let’s bring that in,” Jarnit-Bjergsø says.
While Evil Twin brews everything from vegetable-forward beers to fruity sours, pastry stouts have always had a prominent space on their tap list. Currently, customers can order a 12.5% ABV imperial stout with wild Thai bananas and roasted peanuts or a 12.8% ABV number with Nutella, roasted malt, caramel and, of course, marshmallows. Unlike these liquid desserts, the sugars from the marshmallows in Evil Water are effectively gobbled up from the yeast during fermentation, leaving behind a decidedly lighter final product.
We’re going to play around with new possible flavors,” Jarnit-Bjergsø says. “We’re working on one that’s going to be almost more like a stout, with flavors like oak. If it tastes like shit, we’re going to dump it and try something else, but I think we can create something that people are gonna like.”
Since releasing Evil Water, Jarnit-Bjergsø says other brewers have reached out saying they had been contemplating a pastry-style hard seltzer as well. Given that just about any source of sugar, be it honey or marshmallows, can be fermented into a mildly buzzy beverage, Evil Water isn’t going to be the last clever twist on the formula.
“We’re never going to be a hard seltzer factory. At the end of the day, we’re a brewery and our beer’s doing great,” Jarnit-Bjergsø says. “This isn’t about changing what we do. It’s just about experimenting and getting creative. If we can create a new trend, why not?”