We loved it in concept, but reviews on the actual thing were mixed.

Yesterday we brought news of what just might be Peak Wisconsin 2019: Sprecher Brewing’s new WI Old Fashioned Press Hard Seltzer. 

We – perhaps under ill advisement – surmised what it might be like without the luxury of actually trying the stuff. Today, thanks to a couple of samples from Sprecher, we can actually have an informed opinion. Which is nice.

First, let’s repeat some basics: It’s 90 calories, weighs in at 4.5% ABV and is available now in at Sprecher in Glendale and will be on shelves next week with a suggested price of $9 per six-pack of 12-ounce cans. It’s fermented from neutral malt (so, not gluten-free as many hard seltzers are) and cane sugar. All sugars in those bases apparently ferment out, because the nutrition label lists 0 grams of sugar and 8 grams of carbs.  

My chief concern with this beverage was that it would be simply applying the seltzer buzzword to what was really just an addition to Sprecher’s line hard sodas, which are quite sweet and relatively full in mouthfeel (as actual sodas are). That is most definitely not the case. WI Old Fashioned Press Hard Seltzer is light, dry and crisp, with none of the residual sweetness of the hard sodas. In fact it drinks quite a bit like Sprecher’s flavored sparkling water line – exactly what hard seltzers are trying to emulate. 

Sprecher notes that the old fashioned “press” that this hard seltzer is trying to emulate is distinct from the sweet and sour variants of the cocktail that are far more common in Wisconsin taverns. The old fashioned press is topped off with soda water or seltzer and lemon-lime soda. Still, I can’t help but think that people will read right over the “press” on the seltzer’s label – or not be aware of that lesser-known variant – and come into this beverage with a different expectations of something sweeter. 

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The aroma is great, evoking the little muddled bits of cherry and orange. Sprecher says there are notes of bitters and bourbon in there, too, and aside from a nice, warm vanilla character that could pass for bourbon, I’m not getting much on that front. But that’s fine, the stuff smells great. 

The reviews get mixed from there, though. The fruit notes fall to the back in the flavor, with some of our office tasters describing the flavorings (natural, whatever that means) as medicinal or artificial – reminiscent of what they don’t like in lower-quality sparkling waters. The big thing for me was that WI Old Fashioned Press is pretty bitter, particularly in the finish. An artificial note lingers long into the aftertaste, too.

A co-worker who somewhat regularly drinks hard seltzer acknowledged the bitterness and aftertaste but still liked it, so it could be that if you like a lot of hard seltzers, this Wisconsin twist on the trend will be well-met. I didn’t like it, and didn’t think it really came close to delivering on the premise – a sweet, fruity, boozy cocktail. 

I do, however, think the old fashioned concept would work really well – and capitalize on some of the ebullient buzz over this nostalgia-meets-hot-beverage-trend offering – as a sweeter, fuller-bodied Sprecher hard soda. On, Wisconsin!

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