Food

How Does DC Brau’s New Hard Seltzer Compare to White Claw and Truly?

We taste tested national brands against the new local product.

Among of the greatest characters to emerge in 2019 is the “White Claw bro”—that fratty guy you’d expect to find bonging Bud Light or shooting Fireball, but who instead prefers a low-calorie, highly refreshing, spiked black cherry seltzer. The cultural phenomenon has led to a slew of new hard-seltzer brands vying for the attention of these bros and, of course, the rest of us. And now, a local brand is getting in the game. DC Brau is releasing its own brand dubbed—wait for it—Full Transparency.

“It’s a pretty rare experience to be involved with the genesis of a category so close to the beginning of it, to help shape the flavors,” DC Brau co-founder Brandon Skall. “Nobody knows where it’s going to go. There isn’t a stamp exactly on who this drinker is. Before the White Claw bro, the image of who this drinker was was very different. That is just evidence that this category right now transcends stereotypes, and that’s very interesting to us.”

DC Brau will release four flavors at its brewery on Saturday, Nov. 16: mango, black cherry, raspberry limeade, and “POG,” a combo of passionfruit, orange, and guava. Each can contains 100 calories, less than one gram of sugar, and five-percent alcohol. The beverages are made from a fermented sugar base, as opposed to other hard seltzers which are made from a fermented malt base or a distillate added to flavored carbonated water.

During their months-long research and development process, Skall says they evaluated various hard-seltzers on aroma, appearance, flavor, and “zing.” They wanted to create “expressive, clean flavors” that would be immediately recognizable and jump out as soon as you cracked the can. They ultimately decided on two of the most commercially successful flavors—mango and black cherry—as well as two more “crafty” creations. Each recipe involved weeks and weeks of tiny tweaks. Even the straightforward flavors, like mango, aren’t made solely with natural mango flavoring. “There’s a blend of proprietary natural flavorings that went in to create that character,” Skall says.

But how does the local product actually stack up against the competition? DC Brau dropped off some complimentary cans at our office yesterday, and so our staff conducted a blind taste test with similar flavors from White Claw and Truly. Unfortunately we couldn’t get our hands on any of the new Natural a.k.a. Nationals Light seltzer, but that’s all the more reason to conduct another afternoon spiked seltzer tasting in the future.

First up was black cherry, which all three brands produce. White Claw, which one of our staff taste-testers likened to “the bottom of a Cherry ICEE at the movies,” was the overwhelming winner of the group. DC Brau, the most acidic and tart of the bunch, came in last. “Would be okay if had been drinking already for a bit,” one tester wrote.

Next, Truly’s raspberry lime was pitted against DC Brau’s raspberry limeade. Truly ultimately came out on top. That said, the two beverages were quite different. While Truly is heavy on the berries, DC Brau is all about that lime.

DC Brau did take the crown in the mango category, which seemed to be the most popular flavor overall. DC Brau’s seltzer had a slightly sweeter, fruitier essence than the competing White Claw. It was also unmistakably mango from the first whiff to the first sip. “Like if Herbal Essence shampoo and a daiquiri had a baby,” one reviewer commented.

Passionfruit-orange-guava was the wild card of the group, inspiring vastly contradictory opinions. One person described it as “aggressive,” while another countered that it was “bland.” Was it zingy or not? Our testers said… both. Make of that what you will.

If you want to try Full Transparency for yourself, individual cans and six packs of single flavors ($9.99) will be sold at the brewery beginning this weekend. Variety 12-packs ($18.99) will be available the following week. While the hard-seltzer will be distributed throughout DC to start, shipments will go out Maryland the first week of December then to Virginia and other markets sometime after that.

Skall says they’ll also be releasing seasonal and one-off flavors just like they do with their brews. Next summer, look out for “orange crush.”

“We felt like if we were going to get into this pool, we didn’t want to just dip our toe in. We wanted to put a flag in.”

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Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.