MiddleCoast Brewing Company pulled it off — this odd flavor choice is actually pretty good.
Over the last couple years you’d be forgiven for thinking all hard seltzers pretty much blended together. There’s a thousand different contenders vying for the White Claw throne but they all come to the table with virtually identical weapons: Lemon, lime, grapefruit, mango, black cherry, the occasional passionfruit and berry.
But then I stumbled across something new from Traverse City’s MiddleCoast Brewing Company: winter seltzers. In addition to their line of craft beers, the brewery introduced a couple interesting new flavors to their seltzer line back in October. Those flavors? Peppermint Bark hard seltzer and Ginger Snap hard seltzer.
And can you believe it? The Peppermint Bark is actually quite successful. I know, I can’t believe it either. But not only have I tried it and liked it once, I went back and bought more . If that’s not the mark of a successful product, I don’t know what is.
Actually, I know one thing more — I handed my wife a can and said “I’m not sure if you’re going to like this.” And after one very carefully considered sip, she said, “You know what…I think I actually do like that.” And her palate is far less forgiving than mine.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Peppermint Bark hard seltzer is that it’s actually dark: This is not a transparent Crystal Pepsi approximation of chocolate and peppermint flavors. As you can see from this artsy-fartsy fireplace-fancy shot, it’s a deep translucent ruby in front of flames (and respectively cocoa-mahogany when it’s not).
C’mon, man … what does it taste like?
I don’t need to get too fancy with the flavor notes, friends. This tastes like candy-cane peppermint and dark chocolate whipped together in a nice even balance of both. Mint drinks can skew easily into toothpaste territory. This one doesn’t even come close, dried out and tempered (get it?) by the chocolate backing it up.
Like I said, it works way better than you think it would. The other things you don’t get are what characterizes most bad seltzers. Those weird metallic or aspirin flavors in some offerings? Those aren’t present here. For a brewery I first encountered at last year’s GABF having recently rebranded the brief-lived Monkey Fist, it’s an interesting pivot — but it’s been an interesting year. And anyone who can get a seltzer to go beyond the brief range of flavors we already discussed? Well played.
As for the Ginger Snap? Well, it’s a bit less successful, but only because it’s less evocative of a gingerbread cookie than it is a simple blast of hot cinnamon. Honestly, it tastes like just like Cinnaburst gum. Not a bad thing, really, but not super “ginger.”
Right now only Michiganders and a few other states further east have access to the mixed sixer of these flavors. That said, Bud Light does have a peppermint seltzer out if you need a rough approximation of their Peppermint Bark. (There’s also an Apple Crisp — think they took any cues from this year’s BCS Caramella?) Despite all that, I’m not going to rush to try theirs. Not with this one nearby.