What do White Claw, Vizzy, Truly, and other ready-to-drink alcohol beverage companies have in common? Simply put, they’re all a product of a fermentation process commonly called “sugar-brew.” Sugar-brew is the sugar from sugar cane, beets, or corn used as the alcohol base. Sugar-brew products differ from something like beer which uses grains for its fermentation base. It’s typically a method used for home-brewers but has very recently become a popular alternative to fermented grain beverages like vodka or beer. We’re here to explore what sugar-brew is, what makes the process unique, the value of using it in your product, and highlight some of the most popular brands bringing it to market.
The Sugar-brew Process
The sugar-brew process is similar to brewing any other type of alcohol, but to get a better understanding, let’s lay out one key concept: fermentation. Fermentation is simply when a substance is broken down and converted into something else. It’s like legos or toy building blocks; you can use heat to break down grain or bacteria and make something new during fermentation. Most craft beers are fermented by taking the sugar in yeast and grains and converting it into alcohol. Because sugar is a reasonably simple compound, the alcohol compounds from sugar are smaller and not nearly as strong as beer. Thus, once sugar is fermented, you’re left with a colorless gluten-free brew with lower calories than most beverages. Sugar-brew is growing increasingly popular in the market as it’s expanded the possibilities of selling alcohol and non-alcohol beverages.
Seltzers and “beyond beer” products are created in similar processes in that they’re both fermented using yeast and a sugar source that’s turned into alcohol. The difference is that when beer is fermented, the sugar is extracted by “wort” or malt extract and water. For sugar brew, the wort process is skipped entirely, and the sugar cane is fermented in water. Many more brands, such as Corona, Crook & Marker, Four Loko, and even Bud Light, are catching on to the alternative alcohol base, sugar brew.
Sugar Brew Brands
Many brands are taking advantage of the sugar-brew craze that seems to be sweeping the beverage industry by storm. More notably, brands that sell hard seltzers have been making significant strides in the market for years now as more consumers want ready-to-drink cocktails and beer alternatives. Hard seltzers also include labels such as “beyond beer” and incorporate spirit-based and wine-based seltzers. Some of the brands that are making a splash in the sugar-brew method are Bon & Liv, White Claw, and Coors seltzers to only name a few. Bon & Liv is a beverage company that sells hard seltzers in various flavors. The spiked seltzers are brewed with natural sugar cane, only 90 calories, and 4.8% ABV. One of the more popular forms of sugar brewed is White Claw. White Claw serves beverages that are made from seltzer water, gluten-free malted alcohol base, and various flavors. The base primarily has 51% sugar, small amounts of yeast, nutrients, and water. Another brand that is also taking advantage of the sugar-brew craze is Coors seltzers. Much like Bon & Liv, their seltzers are low in calories and brewed from sugar cane, but they also use the lightness of the seltzers to pack their beverages with fruit aromas such as black cherry, mango, lemon-lime, and grapefruit.
Sweet for All
What makes sugar-brew unique? We’ve discussed what makes the sugar-brew process remarkable, but what about from a consumer perspective? Or even a production and sales perspective? The sugar-brew phenomenon has many benefits. From the point of view of the average consumer, the appeal comes from getting a beverage that has light calories and alcohol (if preferred), less sugar and sweetness, and a wider variety of flavors. Many people this year are looking for products that will aid them in their health-conscious goals, and many sugar-brew products are a sweet enough reward for such an audience. Others merely love the variety of flavors that sugar-brew products can produce. Many consumers are looking to drink and explore different flavors for a varied pallet, and sugar-brew products are a great addition.
From a sales perspective, any respectable company would consider sugar brew products because of their variety in beverage labeling. The Federal Alcohol Administration(FAA) labels sugar-brew products as malt beverages and beer. Sugar-brew offers a variety of categories to a broader audience for beverage sellers. And finally, sugar-brew even has benefits for production packaging! The vast methods of production reach many different co-packaging options. Sugar-brew beverages are accessible for taproom and retail products.
Sugar-brew is something everyone in the beverage industry should keep an eye on. It’s a unique brewing technique that can develop flavorful and varied beverages, offers tasteful and dignified alcohol alternatives, and is a safe venture for beverage producers. Soon, even more varieties of sugar products will expand the market and become standard in the alcohol world as beer itself.
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