Welcome to Fizz Biz, a summertime column where we’ll be sipping and appraising hard seltzers all season long. Know of any must-try products out there? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re at the point in hard seltzer’s story arc where brands are starting to actually have fun with their flavor combinations. While most of you dabblers are familiar with White Claw’s basic, single-fruit flavors and the many citrus-focused imitators that followed, we’re now experiencing the industry’s foray into seltzers that border on fancy. For example, two-tone flavors like Clementine Hibiscus (color me impressed!). Frankly, I live for this stuff. If new varieties fall flat, then it’s entertaining to make fun of them, but if they taste interesting, then I feel sophisticated. I’ll even wiggle my pinky finger at you while I take a sip. I never thought fully loaded seltzer would be such a part of my world, but here we are today.
Bud Light is taking a slightly different angle and going for a nostalgic approach, recreating the tastes we associate with ice cream truck popsicles and beachside slushy stands. The Retro Summer pack includes three limited-edition flavors in a bright tie-dye package, bursting with cheerful beach vibes. The box is adorned with words like “far out,” “vibes,” and “a groovier time.” No, there’s no weed in it. Let’s begin.
What’s most fun about this package are, of course, its three featured flavors: Blue Raspberry, Cherry Limeade, and Summer Ice. I can feel the pavement radiating beneath my feet as I chase down the ice cream truck of my mind.
Blue Raspberry and Cherry Limeade are straightforward (and hard to mess up), but “Summer Ice,” according to the press release, is a combination of lemon, cherry, and blueberry. My educated guess is that it’s modeled after one of my favorite frozen novelties ever: the tri-colored Bomb Pop. (Is it just me, or do Bomb Pops taste better off the truck than they do from the freezer case at the grocery store?)
These stats are nothing out of the ordinary: the Retro Summer pack flavors all clock in at 5% ABV (and I do think 5% is the true sweet spot), 100 calories, with 0 grams of sugar added. But there is a sweetener added, and it’s by way of stevia leaf extract.
Unlike most flavored seltzers, the Blue Raspberry and Cherry Limeade flavors have a slight coloring to them, which in my mind is a small but fun detail. It’s pretty subtle. Plus, you wouldn’t notice unless you decided to pour one out into a glass. I still think drinking hard seltzers out of the can is way more fun, because most of the time the cans are tall and slim (sleek!), and many seltzer can designs seem like they’re getting more beautiful by the day.
I’m going to say right off the bat that I really like all three flavors; none of them were less than fun to drink. And once each can was opened, the flavor stayed potent for the entire time it took to drink.
Third Place: Summer Ice. This is the flavor I was looking forward to the most, but honestly, the best part of a Bomb Pop is the progression of flavor. Nobody eats a bomb pop like an ear of corn; you’re never going to get all of the flavors at once, which is exactly what this can does. If you blindfolded me and asked me to figure this one out, I would be left blindfolded for 2,000 years before I guessed correctly. It’s not bad whatsoever, it’s just not my favorite.
Second Place: Blue Raspberry. I totally thought Blue Raspberry was going to win! This is easily my favorite artificial flavoring in general. There’s something about that blue color that really slaps, teasing the idea that you may in fact be drinking Windex, but a delicious Windex, you know? This hits that nostalgic chord and is a perfect beach drink for when the kids are running off to get popsicles from a cart and you’re too lazy to get up and follow them. Better keep it secret, though. I don’t think open alcohol containers are allowed on most beaches.
First Place: Cherry Limeade. This one took me by surprise. Cherry Limeade sounds a little boring on paper, at least to me. (Maybe I need to try making one of these.) But the flavor in this can was strong, bright, and reminiscent of something you’d get at Sonic Drive-In, plus alcohol (pellet ice optional). I loved this one. This is the one I’ll reach for if someone with a movie projector invites me over to their backyard to watch The Goonies or something. Out of all three, I absolutely loved it.
There are no losers in this variety pack. I will note, however, that the stevia leaf extract probably isn’t for everyone. To me, hard seltzer doesn’t need to be sweet. I’m perfectly happy without a fake sugary dimension, which is what the zero-calorie stevia adds, but unfortunately, it comes along with that signature bitter aftertaste. I know there are some people who strongly dislike that flavor, so take that as you will.
The Bud Light Retro Summer pack is available nationwide. My local liquor store has it for $15.99, for the 12-pack. It’s limited-time-only, so there’s a clock ticking on these.
Go for it! Hard seltzer is at a point where there’s a time and place for nearly any brand and flavor now. The Retro Summer pack is for beaches, pools, and any party where there’s fireworks involved. It’s not a seltzer you have with meals, it’s more of a standalone sipper that tastes like popsicles and slushies, which is why the Retro Summer pack also pairs well with action movies. You might as well have one of these while it’s nice and hot out and relive your ice cream truck chasing years, without having to ask your parents for money.