Wachusett Is Brewing Boozy Seltzer

Nauti Seltzer will bubble into the Massachusetts market this month.
Nauti Seltzer cans

Nauti Seltzer design. / Image provided

When Wachusett Brewing Company opened in the early 1990s, it was on the cutting edge of the craft beer movement. But a Country Pale Ale, a crisp IPA, a Milk Stout, and even a ubiquitous Blueberry Ale can’t sustain a beer company these days, with the number of microbreweries nearly 10 times what it was in 1994, per Brewers’ Association data.

So, the company is diversifying: This month, it will introduce a new brand, Nauti Seltzer, in Massachusetts. In April, the boozy bubbles will roll out nationwide, Brewbound reported.

Wachusett president Ned LaFortune cofounded Wachusett in 1993 with Peter Quinn and Kevin Buckler. These days, 98 percent of its sales are still in New England, the blog reported.

“For many brewers, there is an opportunity to continually expand market areas, offer more diverse beers and there are great opportunities for growth. But for us, we need to stay focused on being a strong, regional brewery and the Wachusett brand is not going to move beyond our current footprint,” LaFortune said.

The company has taken steps toward longterm growth, by investing $5 million in a canning line and an automated brewing system at its Westminster facility, and offering contract brewing services.

But the hard seltzer brand gives them another piece of market share, and LaFortune is anticipating it’s a growing one. Brewbound notes that in 2015, dollar sales of non-alcoholic seltzers increased by 15 percent—you know how fans feel about Polar—and flavored malt beverages, like Not Your Father’s Root Beer, made a huge splash in the last half of 2015, too.

Another New England company debuted a spiked seltzer in 2013, aptly called SpikedSeltzer. That product, from Connecticut-based Boathouse Beverage, is the brainchild of Nick Shields, the great-great grandson of New England brewing pioneer Rudolph Haffenreffer, founder of the Haffenreffer Brewery in Jamaica Plain.

For Wachusett, creating a lower-calorie option is the goal. “We did consider entering the hard soda market, but I wasn’t excited about making something that had over 300 calories and had one pound of sugar per gallon of liquid,” LaFortune told Brewbound.

Compared with the gluten-free, 140-calorie SpikedSeltzer, which is fermented from sugar and fructose, Nauti Seltzer starts with a neutral malt base. That keeps it at 110 calories per 12-ounce can, but it’s not gluten-free.

Nauti Seltzer is 5 percent ABV. It debuts in six packs in raspberry, lemon-lime, grapefruit, and cranberry flavors.