Campfire Cocktails: The 2021 Hard Seltzer Showdown
By / July 30, 2021

When I left the United States in 2018 my options for hard seltzer were limited, but upon my return three years later, I found dozens of upstarts had made the bid to topple White Claw off the throne. With so many choices available to a thirsty consumer, the only option was to take the MFW company card and purchase as many brands as possible in our first annual Hard Seltzer Showdown.

Our rigorous testing method consisted of sitting in the sunshine in a collection of various camp chairs, drinking a YETI Hopper Backflip Cooler full of hard seltzers, and giving a rating from 1-10. Who will reign supreme in the battle of the bubbly? Let’s find out below.

 

Big Sky Spiked Seltzer Strawberry
Alcohol: 4.2%
Calories: 110 / 9.2 per oz
Volume: 12 oz
Score: 2.5

The first lesson learned when selecting hard seltzer is to read the label on the can. If we had, we might have seen that Big Sky Spiked Seltzer describes itself as “beer with natural flavors”. It tastes just about terrible as one could imagine with a thumbs down from the testers across the board.

PBR Stronger Seltzer Wild Berry
Alcohol: 8%
Calories: 230 / 16 per oz
Volume: 16 ounces
Score: 3

If you think that the hipster beloved PBR should skip an attempt at crafting hard seltzer and stick to low quality session beers, you would be right. Reviewers had trouble choking down this overly floral concoction, making this one of the few that had to be poured down the sink. The only thing keeping it out of the lowest spot was the unnecessary amount of alcohol per serving, which elicited a slight positive note from some of the reviewers.

Smirnoff Seltzer Blackberry
Alcohol: 8%
Calories: 67 / 4.1 per oz
Volume: 16 ounces
Score: 3.5

Smirnoff proudly claims that this seltzer has zero sugar, which based on the reactions around the room sounds like they need at least a little. Smirnoff also boasts the fewest amount of calories with one of the highest alcohol contents so if you are looking to lose weight but want to get fall down drunk, this might be the seltzer for you.

Coors Hard Seltzer Black Cherry
Alcohol: 4.5%
Calories: 180 / 7.5 per oz
Volume: 24 ounces
Score: 5

Another macro brewery, another attempt at a hard seltzer that resounded in overwhelming “meh” from testers. One reviewer even began to question the premise of the entire Hard Seltzer Showdown claiming they maybe we don’t even like hard seltzer based on the low ratings. The Coors Hard Seltzer was best described as “something a guest brings to your holiday party and then sits in the back of the fridge for the next year.”

Quirk Strawberry Lemon & Basil
Alcohol: 4.2%
Calories: 90 / 7.5 per oz
Volume: 12 ounces
Score: 5.5

The brightly colored Quirk Hard Seltzer won high marks for design with an “A+ for the can”, but unfortunately testers found it lacking in flavor with one remarking “it smells like a public bathroom.” Quirk elicited the most varied ratings across the board, but when the smoke cleared it landed right in the middle.

Water Works Citrus Cowboy
Alcohol: 5%
Calories: 100 / 7.5 per oz
Volume: 8.3 ounces
Score: 6.5

A local contestant from the Draught Works in Missoula, the Water Works Citrus Cowboy also delivered mixed results from tasters. After the onslaught of sweet berry flavors from the previous hard seltzers, the clean citrus taste was certainly a welcome relief and a promising entry from the Montana brewery. We recommend picking up a variety pack during your next trip.

White Claw Black Cherry
Alcohol: 5%
Calories: 170 / 8.6 per oz
Volume: 19.2 ounces
Score: 7

No surprises here that White Claw is at the upper end of the ratings. If we learned anything from this tasting session, it’s that making a quality hard seltzer is an art. White Claw has a lighter taste than the others, with just a hint of flavor instead of the overpowering taste overload (looking at you PBR!). Even after this entire sampling session, I would still pick The Claw for slow moving mornings in 100 degree festival campground heat.

Vizzy Hard Seltzer Raspberry Lemonade
Alcohol: 5%
Calories: 210 / 8.75 per oz
Volume: 24 ounces
Score: 8.5

The heir apparent to the throne of White Claw, Vizzy is putting out some crazy refreshing flavors. If you are looking for something like White Claw, but with more of a pop, our testers all thought quite highly of Vizzy.

Bud Light Seltzer Black Cherry
Alcohol: 5%
Calories: 140 / 8.75 per oz
Volume: 16 ounces
Score: 9

There was a palpable apprehension when it came to Bud Light, the go-to beer of drunk frat boys everywhere, but it instantly earned top marks and catapulted it to our #1 spot for best hard seltzer. I know, I’m as surprised as you, but unofficial reviews from MFW friends have confirmed that this is indeed a tasty beverage even if you have to add the modifier “trust me, it’s actually pretty good.”

The Results

Overall Winner: Bud Light Seltzer Black Cherry
Runner Up: Vizzy Hard Seltzer Raspberry Lemonade
Most Calories Per Sip: PBR Stronger Seltzer Wild Berry
Least Calories Per Sip: Smirnoff Seltzer Blackberry
Most Alcohol: Smirnoff Seltzer Blackberry/PBR Stronger Seltzer Wild Berry
Best Dog Pretending to Drink A Seltzer: CharlieĀ 

So there you have it, a surprising twist to the first annual Hard Seltzer Showdown with underdog Bud Light taking the top honors. If you are curious to try out any of the brands listed above, but too lazy to go to the store, we have covered with $5 off your first purchase at Drizly, our favorite alcohol delivery service.

*Note: Links in this article may be affiliate links, which means that MFW may make a small commission if you purchase anything from those sites. These are NOT paid/sponsored links and editorial content is unbiased.

Born during a backstage Bonnaroo downpour, Vito's mission in life is to dance, write, and travel to all the great festivals that this wide world has to offer.