Have you tried these new Suffolk-made hard seltzers yet? 

Drinks from Crafty River Brewing

Drinks from Crafty River Brewing - Credit: Crafty River Brewing

Move over cocktail in a can – there's a new drink in town. The hard seltzer. 

You might have seen these in your local supermarket, given them a glance....and reached for the vino. But, says local producer Philip Byford of Crafty River Brewing in Bures, you’re missing out. 

A concept drink from the States, hard seltzers have crept onto the UK market, with Kopparberg, White Claw, Dash and other brands cropping up amongst cans of ready-mixed Pimms and G&T. But what is it? 

Philip explains: “’Hard’ means alcoholic, and ‘seltzer’ means water. The category sees itself as a kind of healthier alcoholic drink. Obviously alcohol isn’t healthy, but these are low calorie, low in sugar and have a low ABV of around 4% to 5%.” 

Philip currently sells his own brews in a few local outlets and online, and will be at Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival this weekend (September 25 and 26) where you can sample the products, and find out more about the hard seltzer process.

Philip Blyford of Crafty River Brewing

Philip Blyford of Crafty River Brewing - Credit: Crafty River Brewing

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 It’s been a long-held dream for the businessman to launch his own drinks brand, although it was beer that the home brewer had in mind to begin with. 

“I started home brewing around 10 to 12 years ago, around the time the craft beer industry seemed to really pick up in America. I was following the American beer trends, and came across hard seltzers by accident really.  

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“While I wanted to brew beer initially, that involves a lot of investment and a huge financial leap, whereas with hard seltzers I could try and be there, at the forefront of the trend in the UK.” 

Philip launched last summer, and says his drinks are quite different to the canned, mass-produced versions. 

“Most of the canned hard seltzers tend to have natural flavouring added,” he explains. “Mine actually have real fruit in them, and they are quite seasonal. I’ll go out and pick hedgerow fruit. They have a much ‘bigger’ flavour. 

A hard seltzer from Crafty River Brewing

A hard seltzer from Crafty River Brewing - Credit: Crafty River Brewing

“And I sell them in glass bottles to showcase the fantastic colours we achieve in the making process.” 

Crafty River Brewing drinks come in 275ml servings, are all 4.5% ABV, and average at 91 calories and 2g of sugar per bottle. 

“Most hard seltzers are made with distilled spirits like vodka, which they take down to the strength they want – but that can leave a residual alcohol or chemical flavour. 

“I make mine like beer. So I brew a sugar wash, and ferment it out, which is actually very difficult to do, because yeast don’t like to consume pure sugar. To that I add real fruit.” 

Flavours include orange and pineapple, lime and cucumber and lemon and ginger, with seasonal additions throughout the year. For the festival this weekend there’s sour cherry, and damson and vanilla. “It’s a shame damsons aren’t used a lot,” says Philip. “They’ve got such a lovely flavour. Another one I’m doing is a collaboration with the River Stour Festival. 

“I sat down with them and they came up with a recipe idea, with elderberries and blackberries.” 

Philip’s best-selling flavour, despite some customers’ initial reservations, is lime and cucumber. “It’s a really interesting taste. Most people think it’s going to be watery, but it’s actually so flavoursome – a bit like a Hendrick’s gin. Really refreshing. Everyone who tries it is surprised by how distinctive it is. 

“And the lemon and ginger is a head turner. Often people don’t go near that combination. They say they’re not a ginger fan. But that gives me a challenge and more often than not they’re surprised by how subtle it is.” 

You can find the drinks at Two Brews in Colchester, the Courtyard Café in Halstead, and Heart of Suffolk Distillery, or buy online from craftyriverbrewing.co.uk with local and nationwide delivery available. 

“The feedback I’ve had so far has been so positive,” says Philip. “You have to try them to love them.” 

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