How Tax Policy Gave Us White Claw
Because of this tax quirk, beverage companies have long sought ways to make flavored cocktail-like beverages for the U.S. market by brewing instead of distilling. Zima, Smirnoff Ice, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are all “malternative” beverages, brewed from grain, like beer. A problem with malternatives has been the need to find ways to mask the beer-like flavor that results from brewing. To that end, these drinks have added sugar and strong citrus flavors, which a lot of consumers like. But they don’t serve as a replacement for a vodka soda.
The key advancement with White Claw and its competitors in the “spiked seltzer” market is the use of sugar base for fermentation, which leads to a more neutral flavor than you can get by fermenting barley or other grains.