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Leinie’s to Release a Blend of Beer and Seltzer
The newest brew from Leinenkugel’s, which will hit store shelves and drinkers’ lips in March, has a splash of something different from the area brewery: seltzer.
The new product is called Spritzen (that’s German for “splash”), and it’s a blend of flavored seltzer and the beer that made Chippewa Falls famous. Three flavors will be available: Raspberry Lemon, Pineapple Strawberry, and Grapefruit. Leinenkugel’s is hoping that the new beverage hits the spot in much the way that Summer Shandy, the brewery’s blend of beer and lemonade, did when it was launched in 2007.
“It’s really an interesting entry into where drinkers are going, and I think what we have done well is thread the needle between this beer and seltzer space: low-calorie, low-carb beers, but also (the) fruit-forward refreshment that the seltzers have been so successful at delivering for their drinkers” – Dick Leinenkugel, president and chief beer merchant, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.
But while shandies were already popular in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, Leinie’s seltzer-beer mashup is a brand-new innovation, said Dick Leinenkugel, president and chief beer merchant of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.
“It’s really an interesting entry into where drinkers are going, and I think what we have done well is thread the needle between this beer and seltzer space: low-calorie, low-carb beers, but also (the) fruit-forward refreshment that the seltzers have been so successful at delivering for their drinkers,” Leinenkugel said in an interview in his Chippewa Falls office.
In the past few years, hard seltzers have become big business – topping $1 billion in sales annually, CNN reported in August – with brands such as White Claw and Truly leading the way.
“There’s no doubt that that seltzer space has taken some of our drinkers from Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, as we’ve seen declines over the last two years of Summer Shandy volume,” Leinenkugel said. Considering Summer Shandy makes up roughly 40% of Leinenkugel’s total volume – despite only being available for about half the year – luring erstwhile Shandy drinkers back to the Leinie’s fold is important for the brewery’s bottom line.
Dick Leinenkugel is optimistic that Spritzen can do just that, riding the ongoing trends of flavored beer and health consciousness. Spritzen – which, like hard seltzers, will be sold in 12-ounce slim cans – has 93 calories and 2.2 grams of carbs. The beverage looks and pours like beer, but has the taste of fruit (in this case, the sample offered was the Raspberry Lemon) and the light, bubbly fizz of seltzer. It’s the kind of refreshing drink you can imagine cracking open on a warm afternoon with friends.
“It’s really well-researched in terms of the drinker and the trends that are out there right now,” Leinenkugel said. Spritzen will appeal both to beer drinkers looking for something light while also offering “the opportunity to get those drinkers back that may have ... left shandy for a hard seltzer, and we have the ability to recruit new drinkers to Leinenkugel’s that are looking for something lighter and more flavorful,” he said.
Spritzen will be brewed in Fort Worth, Texas, by Leinenkugel’s parent company, MillerCoors, which is in the process of renaming itself the Molson Coors Beverage Co. (Note the use of the word “beverage” instead of “brewing” – a shift emblematic of the company’s increasing efforts to extend beyond beer into products such as hard seltzers, wine spritzers, hard coffees, and – of course – the new Spritzen.) Like Summer Shandy, Spritzen will be available in all 50 states.
That doesn’t mean Leinenkugel’s will be ignoring its familiar territory in the Upper Midwest: The Great Lakes states still account for most of the brewery’s sales, and Dick Leinenkugel said the brewery will continue to innovate locally, as it has recently by collaborating with Brewster Bros. Brewing Co., a fellow Chippewa Falls beermaker. John Hensley, Leinie’s master brewer, creates recipes and brews them in the Brewster Bros. brewery, producing exclusive, small-batch beverages that are available only locally. “I think it’s really important to continued to keep your local market strong,” Dick Leinenkugel said.