This past weekend, I stopped by the little beer-and-wine store near my local supermarket and picked up a 12-can variety pack of White Claw–brand fruit-flavored “hard seltzer.” At the checkout counter, I had two options: A hip-looking 20-something dude with a beard and some kind of bunlike thing going on with his hair, and, farther away at another cash register, a more or less equally hip-looking 20-something woman.
About this. I am a visibly washed-up wreck of a 38-year-old, just an absolute pile of nonthreatening shit wearing shapeless—but breathable!—linen shorts that would be embarrassing if I had any dignity to put at risk. My shirt does not literally have the words “Father Of Two” stamped on it, but that’s only because it would be redundant. But long (long) before I was this, I was once also a reasonably invested young longhair who worked retail checkout counters within earshot of other attractive young people—it’s how I came to be a husband and father in the first place. In both my present and former capacity, I know what is coming to a visibly washed-up 38-year-old heap in shapeless linen shorts when he carries a colorful little box of internet-trendy fruit-flavored “hard seltzer” to the counter of a beer-and-wine store and places it before an energetic young dude with an audience. On the other hand, I was not going to stroll past the open register with a much younger dude behind it to get to the farther-away one with a much younger woman behind it; that seems like Creep Behavior. These are the wages of enlightenment.
All in all, I think I got off easy. The checkout guy’s face crinkled in amusement the very instant I set the box on the counter, and his neck recoiled a little—not in wild horror, but the gentle little recoil that tilts your face back slightly and means: Whaaaaat? I will cop to this. Ultimately, overweight middle-aged parents who look like they got dressed by rolling blindfolded in a pile of discarded sailcloth ought to be the exact target audience for low-calorie, minimally alcoholic, fruit-flavored party water, but that’s not how it goes. Men who look like me are supposed to shop for pure rotgut, if not for macho purposes then at the very least as a favor to everybody else, for the sake of hastening our own blindness and death.
Checkout Guy’s (inevitable) one-liner wasn’t even an original, just the “Four Loko that went to private school” line we’ve all seen on the internet. And he kind of muttered it, like he’d already used it twice in his shift. But I immediately blurted out “It’s for a gag!” anyway, which was both true and a fatal unforced error. He’d botched his first attempt at a winner, and I’d set him up for another, even gifting him an unearned pun. “Enjoy your gag,” he sneered, as I took my receipt. An overhead smash, for the game and the set.
White Claw has now reached this point, even in generic mid-Atlantic suburbs: It’s a beverage, but it’s also and maybe primarily a crystallized quantum of internet. It’s a weird thing somebody is doing, out there and possibly too much, or with too much enthusiasm. It has necessitated explainer blogs.
Anyway, I wanted to drink some different flavors of this stuff, and possibly have cranky half-cooked reactionary takes about them, and then rank them on the basis of how good they taste on this website, as we have tended to do with food and drinks over the years. However, here at Deadspin, we are laser focused on serving Deadspin readers sports and everything related to sports; with that in mind, here are the flavors of White Claw “hard seltzer” ranked by how good they are at the very popular U.S. sport of football.
6. Black cherry
The black cherry White Claw tastes the most pleasantly like its namesake fruit of the White Claws I tasted this weekend. Actually, I have no idea what a “black cherry” tastes like. But the black cherry White Claw has a reasonable and convincing cherry flavor, in any event, and not in a gross cough-syrup kind of way. It tastes damn good, actually. It goes down very easy. I absentmindedly drank two of them within like 12 minutes last night while I was playing video games, which was a mistake.
Black cherry is the best-tasting of the White Claws. Also, from a football standpoint, I believe its relative authenticity, flavorwise, gives it credibility in the locker room and authority in the huddle. But it is very bad for a football player to “go down easy.” A good football player should be hard to take down, no matter what position they play or what they taste like. Therefore black cherry is the worst of the White Claws at the sport of football.
There are sensible reasons for White Claw to be marketed as “hard seltzer.” People like seltzer water; at this moment in history, flavored seltzer has an association with healthfulness and good habits and is broadly sort of hip-ish, even amid the precipitous decline of LaCroix. Moreover, calling this stuff “hard seltzer” implies it is a beverage people already like (seltzer) with more stuff people like (alcohol) added to it, which is a good construction for Americans, who like to feel that they are getting more. Seltzer is water that is more exciting than regular water because it has bubbles. Hard seltzer is seltzer that is more exciting than regular seltzer because it has alcohol in it.
By contrast, “extremely weak fruit-beer,” for example, is a beverage people like (beer) with stuff people like (alcohol, flavor) taken out of it. People do not like that. That is not getting more. That is getting less. “Hard seltzer” is a party beverage; a beverage of indulgence and slight excess. “Extremely weak fruit-beer” is a diet beverage, a beverage of forbearance and retreat. Nobody wants that.
But the actual experience of drinking White Claw is a lot more like drinking beer—extremely weak fruit-beer—than it is like drinking seltzer. This is down to the effervescence of the stuff, which is foamy and gentle like beer rather than sparkly and fizzy like good seltzer. That’s a good thing, to me, an enjoyer of cheap and extremely weak beers. The best of beer’s attributes are its effervescence and its alcohol content; its worst attribute is that it is flavored by bad-tasting things like hops and barley. So it’s nice to drink an unflavored White Claw. The lack of fruit flavoring makes it easier to pick out that what you’re drinking is just insanely weak beer, which is good. It’s like a beer that doesn’t taste like the underside of a lawnmower.
From a football standpoint, however, you do not want players defined by the ordinary football attributes they lack. Nobody has ever been like “Jim’s the best player we got: He doesn’t have muscles or toughness or smarts.” In the sport of football it is important to have muscles and toughness and smarts.
The variety pack I got didn’t have any mango White Claws in it. Elusiveness is a good football skill.
3. Ruby grapefruit
Red grapefruit is the most perfect of all fruits, but it’s also a difficult flavor to reproduce in basically anything but an actual red grapefruit. Mostly, food- and drink-makers seem to settle on a kind of bitter orange flavor. Orange, but harsh. Orange peel. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s also wrong. Red grapefruit is bitter and sweet. That’s what makes it special.
The ruby grapefruit White Claw tastes more like actual red grapefruit than most grapefruit-flavored seltzer, and a lot more like actual grapefruit than, say, Fresca ever did. It leans too much toward bitterness to be an accurate reproduction of the taste of a red grapefruit, but the bitter flavor makes sense paired with the beery foaminess and the very mild ethanol flavor. The ruby grapefruit White Claw is more like drinking an actual beer than any of the others. Maybe you’re into that!
Honestly I am not sure how this serves the ruby grapefruit White Claw on the gridiron. On the other hand, the ruby grapefruit White Claw has an extremely fuckin’ powerful throwing arm, and is tall enough to see over the pass protection with ease.
The raspberry White Claw is cloying and shockingly gross. I cannot imagine anyone enjoying even a sip of this nasty swill, ever. I couldn’t finish even half a can of it. Honestly I am getting a little bit sick to my stomach even thinking about what the raspberry White Claw tasted like.
All of this inarguably recommends raspberry White Claw as a football player. Football players should be nasty, and vile, and they should fill opponents with dread and horror. Those are called “intangibles.” That is how you win the game in the dang trenches. Give me 22 raspberry White Claws and you can keep your damn fancy-pants wide-receivers and porcelain quarterbacks. Jack Lambert was the nastiest sumbitch ever strapped on a helmet, and that mean ol’ dog’s got four Super Bowl rings!
1. Natural lime
Limes are sorta football shaped. Can’t play football without a football.