Austin’s most popular cider brand is now taking the dive into what became last summer’s most prolific alcoholic beverage — hard seltzer.
But the trio of spiked seltzers that Austin Eastciders rolls out Friday, both in local stores and on draft at its Springdale Road tasting room, are far from being White Claw replicas. For one thing, the black cherry, peach and apple seltzers have a hard cider base that gives them a color closer to those of the flavored ciders Eastciders specializes in than the clear, effervescent boozy seltzers so dominant now on retail shelves.
"It’s 100-calorie seltzer made with hard apple cider — real fruit, nothing artificial, super sessionable and, personally, we think, considerably better-tasting than a lot of other hard seltzers on the market today," brand manager Chris Lowrey said. "I think it’s going to be a winner and also clearly connected to the rest of the Eastciders family."
Black cherry will be the only spiked seltzer available by itself in six-packs to start, but each of the flavors also launch now in variety packs, which Lowrey said are popular in the hard seltzer world. Then, in the summer, peach becomes a standalone option. Besides black cherry, a common boozy seltzer flavor, Eastciders wanted to have fun, rarely seen options for the variety pack, and "of course we had to do apple," he said.
>> RELATED: Austin Eastciders releases new sangria cider as latest seasonal
Eastciders decided to make the plunge into the new beverage category after hearing from numerous fans asking if the cider brand would ever offer hard seltzer. The answer had been "no" until cidery employees thought it over and realized they could probably do it pretty well.
The cidery worked hard to make sure the trio of spiked seltzers might not taste so one-note to your palate. Black cherry has a citrus accent to it, and the apple somehow has a freshness that Lowrey liked tasting a can of it straight off the line. He thinks they drink differently than Eastciders’ line of flavored ciders, which include Blood Orange, Pineapple and Ruby Red Grapefruit.
The ciders are refreshing, but the 4.2 percent ABV seltzers are on a whole new level of drinkable, he said.
"You can take a variety pack down to the river on a hot day and have a few," he said. "But we wanted the seltzer to taste good, too. I think we married that balance of having both."
Fans of Eastciders will notice the spiked seltzer cans look a little different from the rainbow of Eastciders’ cider cans, while still looking distinctly part of the brand. Eastciders decided to put images of the black cherry, apple and peach fruits on the cans as a visual indicator that the seltzer "does have real fruit in it. It does have real apples. It does have real cherry juice. Real peach," Lowrey said.
Austin Eastciders will celebrate the launch of the new spiked seltzer line with a party at the Collaboratory, at 979 Springdale Rd., on March 7. All three of the seltzers will be on tap there.