A brand-new craft seltzer business is coming to Richmond. Richmond Seltzer Co. plans to exclusively create new seltzers, bringing in local ingredients and flavors that aren’t in your usual White Claw.
We’ve all heard of breweries, wineries, cideries, and even the occasional meadery, but what about seltzeries? Hard seltzer has become an increasingly popular drink of choice over the past few years. We are all familiar with White Claw, which is typically associated with young professionals on the beach wearing cool sunglasses, but is there more to the art of making hard seltzer — and is seltzer a growing market in America? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. This brings us to the next step in the drink’s evolution: the birth of craft seltzer.
One local couple, Vanessa Gleiser and Iain Gordon, have set out to open Richmond’s first-ever craft seltzer bar. Slowly popping up around the country, the concepts are so new that they actually coined a new term, a word that spell check still underlines in red. That word is “seltzery.” Hard seltzer is a fairly new type of drink, one that Americans have only known as a cheap canned beverage to buy in convenience stores and groceries until now.
“There’s a seltzery opening up in North Carolina and another in Chicago, but those are the only couple that we’ve heard of,” Gordon said. But Richmonders will soon be introduced to the concept of craft seltzer thanks to the new business. “We are hoping to be the first in the state.”
Gleiser and Gordon only started making their own hard seltzer this summer, perhaps as a result of too much time at home due to the quarantine.
“We just started making seltzer maybe a month ago,” Gleiser said. “I’ve been in the craft beverage industry for two years now… I felt like seltzer was a pretty hot topic right now, and there’s a lot of fun flavors we can do with it.” This new hobby quickly became a passion, and that passion turned into a business for the young couple. They established a business model and chose a name, Richmond Seltzer Company. Gleiser and Gordon have even started looking into storefronts where they can open their seltzery in 2021.
“When you look at the local market here, the brewery market is saturated,” Gordon said. “Even the cider market. Seltzer is such a popular drink… With all the reports coming out about sales increasing year to year, and it’s the ‘Summer of Seltzer,’ we figured people would enjoy this as a craft beverage. To give it a little more care and focus on improving the quality and flavor, on a small scale, rather than just buying these cheaper versions off the shelf in a store.”
Gordon also pointed out some advantages of making seltzer, as compared to brewing beer or distilling spirits. As it turns out, the upfront costs are lower, and the process doesn’t take quite as long. “We realized that it’s a little bit easier to brew seltzer, and you can play with that flavor profile a little bit,” Gordon said. “If we do it on a small scale, it allows us to have a unique draw on the seltzer, rather than being stuck with traditional mango, watermelon, or [flavors] you might get in a White Claw.”
Since Richmond Seltzer Company intends to be the first of its kind in Richmond, how will locals respond? Is there a high demand for hard seltzer in Virginia? Gordon explained why the new concepts are a relatively stable industry for entrepreneurs.
“Seltzers, in general, have proven to be profitable and successful,” Gordon said. “The craft industry has also proven that. So pairing those two together, and looking at the positive support we’ve received so far… We are pretty confident the market demand will be there.”
Despite the fact that White Claw and other canned seltzers have become more popular over the past few years, there hasn’t really been much seltzer-related activity in the world of craft booze as yet. Gordon thinks that’s understandable in light of the newness of hard seltzer.
“It’s just so new,” Gordon said, pointing out that already-established businesses are the only others in the area even considering exploring the world of hard seltzers. “A couple of the local breweries are making their own seltzers, or making a seltzer line. We want to make an entire facility devoted [to them], and make it unique.”
The new bar will host seltzers on tap and in growlers. “Literally just seltzer,” Gleiser said. “No beer, no cider. This gives us time to devote all of our research, and recipes, to perfect it.”
In terms of location, the entrepreneurs are hoping to find a spot by the river.
“We want people to be able to come hang out before or after they go to the river,” Gleiser said. “We’re hoping to get a space before December.”
If you’re wondering how hard seltzer is made, you’re not alone. Gordon is the operation’s Chief Brewer, and explained in detail how it’s done.
“We start with boiling distilled water, then mix in our sugar agent. Once we’ve got the sugar in the water and it’s been boiling for approximately 15 minutes, we cool it to a temperature of around 100 degrees,” Gordon said. “Then we add in the yeast nutrient, which dissolves. That yeast nutrient will be used by the yeast later, with sugar, to produce alcohol and carbonation.”
Richmond Seltzer Company’s hopes to keep their products natural and use locally sourced ingredients from other Richmond companies.
“Right now, we’re experimenting with natural carbonation, but we may force-carbonate at some point,” Gleiser said. “As far as flavoring goes, we are trying to use natural simple syrups, and hopefully will be going with a local business in Richmond for them.”
While the process is certainly interesting, the most exciting part for many customers will be the flavors. They’ve partnered with Crested Simple Syrups to start with flavors like Blackberry Sour, Mango, Watermelon, and Peach Hibiscus. Gleiser is the mastermind behind their most experimental flavor so far.
“We collabed with AR’s Hot Southern Honey, and what I’m planning to do is turn the honey into a simple syrup,” Gleiser said. “Then I’ll add that flavoring at the end of the brewing process. It will be sweet and spicy. I’m expecting it to give off a mead taste, but with a little bit of kick in the throat.”
Richmond Seltzer Co. is an exciting new prospect for the local community. It is sure to find its place alongside the many craft breweries, cideries, and distilleries in Richmond, but it will also stand alone as the first of its kind, pioneering a new type of alcoholic drink in the craft beverage scene. Just as Gordon and Gleiser are eager to introduce their business to their community, they hope that the community, too, is anxiously awaiting this new addition.
“We’ve received excitement from a lot of people, and a lot of engagement on our social media,” Gleiser said. “I think people are really excited to try craft seltzer — and not only to have a craft seltzer, but to have a place to sit and drink with their friends.”