PBR and Natural Light mark a trend in budget beer companies leaning into the hard seltzer market.

By Mike Pomranz / FoodandWine.com
August 14, 2019

Possibly the biggest trend in the beer world isn't beer at all — it's hard seltzer. Now, two of the best-known names in bargain beer are giving their brands a seltzer-y twist. In an incredible coincidence, yesterday, both Natural Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon announced on the same day that they had started selling hard seltzer.

Natural Light is probably the bigger news — if only because it's a national launch from Anheuser-Busch. The new Natural Light Seltzer is offered in two flavors: Aloha Beach has a "tropical feel" thanks to mango and peach, and Catalina Lime Mixer is flavored with black cherry and lime. Both clock in at 6 percent ABV, notably higher than Natural Light's usual 4.2 percent and competitor White Claw's 5 percent. (Translation: Careful, these seltzers could be more than you bargained for.) This new launch comes on the heels of Natural Light's beer-based, but fruit-forward strawberry lemonade iteration, Naturdays, which has been surprisingly successful.

Natural Light

"We know plenty of Natty Light drinkers are also trying seltzer, so we want to meet that demand by bringing the fun of Natty into that space with an affordable price offering that fits their lifestyle," explained Ricardo Marques, vice president of Core and Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch. Natural Light Seltzer is being sold in 12-packs, 24-packs, and 25-ounce cans. (No 77-packs yet!)

Meanwhile, Pabst Blue Ribbon has also had an unprecedented year of new product launches — all part of its 175-year anniversary celebration. It's included the announcement of a Pabst Blue Ribbon Whiskey, as well as the release of both a higher-strength Pabst Blue Ribbon Extra and an alcohol-free Pabst Blue Ribbon Non-Alcoholic. Then, most recently, Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Coffee hit the market. Now, you can add Pabst Blue Ribbon Stronger Seltzer to that list.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

At 8-percent ABV, PBR Stronger Seltzer is one of the booziest seltzers on the market, masked behind "zesty, natural lime flavors" and sweetened with Stevia, leaving the drink with just one gram of sugar. Similar to the launch of Hard Coffee, this lime seltzer is currently only being sold in test markets, which this time around include Arizona, California, Montana, and Texas. "Stronger Seltzer explores new ground for the blue ribbon, while upholding the boundary pushing tradition that's been associated with us since the days of our founder Jacob Best," John Newhouse, brand manager at Pabst Blue Ribbon, said in the announcement. "Stronger Seltzer is a fun and innovative new drink that delivers big on taste, and gives our customers something different to enjoy."

But the biggest announcement here is the one hard seltzer is making to the world: Yes, hard seltzer may still turn out to be just a passing fad, but at this point, it's not a small one: Hard seltzer is a full-blown phenomenon.

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