My first batch of hard seltzer was inspired by the examples Mitch Ermantinger is brewing at Speciation Artisan Ales. Motivated by his remarkably simple recipe, I brewed Mountain Seltzer #1 on May 26 by combining 3.12 gal of distilled water, 2.13 lb of dextrose, 1.40 g of Wyeast Beer Nutrient Blend, 3.1 lb Vintner’s Harvest grapefruit purée and 75 ml of Imperial Yeast A43 – Loki kveik yeast. I fermented for 16 days at ~70°F before transferring into a keg, carbonating to 4.0 volumes and canning.
Despite missing my target original gravity, Mountain Seltzer #1 wound up at 3.7% ABV (1.026 OG / 0.998 FG) with an estimated 78 calories and 2.4 g of carbs per 12 oz can. The cost per 12 oz can came to $0.83.
I have been drinking Mountain Seltzer #1 for nearly four months now so thought it was about time to post a review!
Appearance – The seltzer has a vibrant peach Bellini color (thanks to the inclusion of grapefruit purée) and pours with lots of effervescence. As the glass fills, thousands of tiny bubbles jump out of the glass and leave no head. It certainly looks the part!
Smell – The faint smell of grapefruit juice breaks through an unpleasant aroma of sulfur. I originally noticed the sulfur aroma during fermentation but thought it would fade with force carbonation. Instead, it took several weeks to dissipate and several months to disappear. Now the aroma is wholly grapefruit but the sulfur was annoying more than anything when it was still around.
Taste – The flavor comes across as much more grapefruit-y than the aroma and fortunately there is no sulfur flavor that comes through at all. While the flavor is not as intense as the extracts used in popular commercial versions, I enjoy the more nuanced taste, personally. With that said, my wife and friends encourage me to include more purée next time – I think 25% more should do the trick.
Mouthfeel – Thin, spritzy and crisp without any residual sweetness. It’s about as refreshing of a drink as you can come by and really hits the spot on a blazing-hot Idaho summer afternoon.
Overall – Pretty good for round one! Once the sulfur dissipated, I thought this was as good as any hard seltzer on the market. It’s been a crowd-pleaser and a favorite of my wife, so it’s a win in my book.
Changes For Next Time – In addition to increasing the fruit rate I need to eliminate the sulfur aroma on the next iteration.
Coincidentally, as I was trying to troubleshoot the sulfur component, Escarpment Laboratories published “FAN: it’s what beer yeast craves.” The blog post examines the free amino nitrogen (FAN) consumption of various Escarpment yeast strains, including kveik (which were some of the highest FAN consumers). FAN is extracted from malt and utilized to create various compounds important to yeast health. FAN levels below 130 ppm can contribute to yeast growth lag and incomplete fermentation leading to sulfur off-flavors. It’s no stretch to assume the nutrient deficient seltzer wash and kveik yeast created a FAN nightmare and led to the sulfur byproducts in Mountain Seltzer #1.
In hindsight, I should have used a wine nutrient blend (instead of beer nutrient blend) since seltzer wash is more like grape must than beer wort. While researching wine nutrient blends for Mountain Seltzer #2, serendipity struck again with White Labs‘ announcement of SeltzerMax WLN2500 Yeast Nutrient, a blend of nutrients specifically designed to create a clean, dry and clear hard seltzer. I will definitely use SeltzerMax for a future iteration of Mountain Seltzer. With that said, for Mountain Seltzer #2, I plan to blend vodka, water and fruit purée to see if I prefer the outcome better than Mountain Seltzer #1.