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What are hard seltzers and what do they taste like? We put the Truly brand, marketed by Shepherd Neame, to the test


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Call me an old fuddy-duddy if you must, but I wasn't aware alcoholic water was now a thing.

You'd have thought given the fuss over alcopops in the mid-1990s, marketing flavoured sparkling water with the same alcohol content of the average can of beer would have been frowned upon.

Look - even songstress Dua Lipa is getting in on the craze (and being paid handsomely to do so, no doubt)
Look - even songstress Dua Lipa is getting in on the craze (and being paid handsomely to do so, no doubt)

But what started as a craze in the US has, inevitably, made the trip across the Atlantic and arrived on our shores.

In fact, the drinks, known as hard seltzers, are proving to be the current success story of the booze industry - seeing a growth in supermarket and off-licence sales way ahead of the competition.

Apparently, the UK market is expected to be worth £75million by 2023. Which, given they only arrived here last year is some impressive growth.

So just what do they taste like? You're about to find out.

But first a word on the all-important marketing. When alcopops were all the rage, the big issue was that plenty of the labels and commercialisation of the product appeared to be aimed at the underage drinker.

Truly Hard Seltzers are being marketed by Faversham's very own Shepherd Neame
Truly Hard Seltzers are being marketed by Faversham's very own Shepherd Neame

After all, rather than struggling to acquire a taste for Special Brew in the local recreation ground upon an evening, alcopops provided an option of having lemonade (or sorry, a 'lemon brew') which would - perhaps at not quite the same speed - deliver the same results.

But these 'hard seltzers' (insert gag of your choice about needing Alka Seltzers here), have snuck in pretty much under the radar.

And rather than garish colours and cartoon characters, these line-up on the shelf looking much more like a pre-mixed gin and tonic than a soft drink. Their big selling point? Low calories and 'natural flavourings'.

Faversham's Shepherd Neame has even got in on it - tying up with the Boston Beer Company to distribute its Truly Hard Seltzer range.

And so we tried some.

Our intrepid reporter prepares to put the drink through its paces
Our intrepid reporter prepares to put the drink through its paces

They are producing two flavours - black cherry and wild berry. Both are 5% ABV.

I'm advised they are perfectly served on ice, with a sprig of mint and maybe a strawberry. I have neither. The issue I have with cocktails is that I adore a good mojito but can I be bothered with all that mint crushing and sugar mixing? No I cannot. Therefore I drink them only when someone at a bar who knows what they are doing are making them (and normally at a cost which puts me off ordering them again). The hard seltzers will be drunk straight. Albeit after some time relaxing in my fridge.

So let's cut straight to the chase.

While with an alcopop you were aware you were drinking a lemonade which tasted a bit weird, with these drinks you could sup them with absolutely no idea they are punching at pretty much the same weight as, say, a bottle of Stella (which is 5.2% ABV).

And while we're talking about weight, a 355ml can of both Truly brands contain 100 calories - which is more than 50% less than the 160-ish the Belgian beer giant will sneak into your body.

Wild berry and black cherry face the taste test
Wild berry and black cherry face the taste test

Good for your waistline they may be, but, oh, the ease of getting drunk on these things and not almost realising it must be sky-high. I will, inevitably, have to put that to the test. But that's for another day.

Which is not to be critical of them.

They are, in truth, very tasty tipples.

The fruit flavouring is powerful in both - the cherry variety being my personal favourite - and as you relax in the sun then they could make the perfect summer drink. They go down with remarkable ease and with none of that 'having to get used to the taste' business.

If you’ve ever tried a flavoured sparkling water, that is precisely what they taste like. Which makes trying to review them in more depth a bit of a challenge.

This is the look of a man pleasantly surprised at the new alcoholic water craze
This is the look of a man pleasantly surprised at the new alcoholic water craze

In fact, they are quite moreish - primarily because the alcohol content almost doesn't cross your mind.

Would I buy them again? Almost certainly. Would I swap them for a glass of a nice, chilled Sauvignon Blanc? Almost certainly. They're good - but they're not that good.

Truly Hard Seltzers are now available in a number of Shepherd Neame's pubs, should you want to try them for yourself.

To read the Secret Drinker’s pub reviews click here.

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