As Principal Skinner so rightly observed in a classic Simpsons quotation, once upon a time: “The times, they are ‘a becoming quite different.”
As the momentum of the entire beer industry grinds to a halt, and mid-sized regional craft breweries feel the pinch in particular, the rush to non-beer alternatives and alternate revenue streams is becoming quite real. Brewers both macro and craft are chasing after the few segments of the industry that are showing any signs of life, particularly low-cal and low-carb beers, while experimenting with brand extensions that aren’t beer at all. Seltzers, both N/A and spiked, are proliferating. Distilleries are whirring to life. Everyone is in survival mode. Just last week, we saw AB InBev acquire Cutwater Spirits, the canned cocktail manufacturer started by former Ballast Point employees.
Kansas City’s venerable Boulevard Brewing Co., which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019, is no exception. The Missouri brewers fall under the banner of “big craft” in the sense that they’re owned by the Belgian Duvel Moortgat, which brings together Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and Ommegang, along with Boulevard, to form the fifth largest “craft brewery” in the country by the Brewers Association definition. They’re exactly the sort of regional brewery that would benefit from striking while the iron is hot on a new trend, and that seems to be exactly what they’re trying to do with today’s announcement: A new lineup of canned cocktails, under the brand name Fling, from the newly created “Boulevard Beverage Company.” The official announcement reads as follows:
For 30 years, Boulevard has brewed an array of appealing, adventurous, highly acclaimed beers. As experts in the fine art of flavor, we’ve stepped out of our sandbox, pushing boundaries and exploring new territory in a drive to deliver the best and most interesting adult beverages. First up: Fling Craft Cocktails. These all-natural, gluten-free, ready-to-drink cocktails go where you go. Crisp, refreshing and crafted with care, they’re ready for any adventure and will be available year-round in 4-packs of 12oz cans starting in early April.
There are a few interesting details to glean here, beginning with the fact that Boulevard says it is “exploring new territory” and immediately follows with “First up: Fling Craft Cocktails.” This wording would certainly seem to suggest that Fling is just the first in what could be a series of non-beer brand extensions. What else might Boulevard have up its sleeve?
Secondly, it’s interesting to note that these will be coming in 4-packs of 12 oz cans, rather than larger packages. Does that imply a premium price point? One might almost expect the Blood Orange Vodka Soda (the lowest ABV offering) to come in a larger package.
“Our little side hustle started as an interesting diversion, but it’s taken on a life of its own,” said Boulevard president Jeff Krum in a statement. “While we’ll always remain first and foremost a craft brewer, sometimes you just want something different. We have the facilities and the equipment and the talent to make all kinds of interesting and delicious beverages, and we’re excited by the opportunity to give consumers more choices, to go where they go. Plus, we’re having more fun than is probably legal.”
Here are the four initial varieties of Fling Craft Cocktails, which will start hitting store shelves in early April.
Blood Orange Vodka Soda — 5 percent ABV
Fling yourself to the Italian coast, where hats are big, swimsuits are small, oranges are crimson, and life is a celebration. The combination of 360 Vodka, soda water and a hint of blood orange is beautifully guilt-free – just 100 calories and 2.4g of carbohydrates.
Note that Boulevard highlights the calories and carbs of this lowest-ABV offering, which puts it into the same relative bracket as the likes of Michelob Ultra or White Claw Hard Seltzers. This is without a doubt the most hotly competed area of the alcohol market right now.
Cucumber Lime Gin and Tonic — 7 percent ABV
Fling yourself to London Town, where royals reign and properly made cocktails are the rule. Bursting with floral aromas, Builders Botanical Gin pairs perfectly with tonic and a touch of lime and cucumber to create a modern, effervescent take on a timeless classic.
Builders, like the other liquors used in these cocktails (except for the Mai Tai), hails from a local KC spirits company, which makes sense as a partnership for Boulevard. The Cucumber Lime Gin and Tonic is 181 calories and 8.6g carbs per 12 oz can.
Mai Tai — 8 percent ABV
Fling yourself to an island paradise where rules are weak, drinks are strong and Hawaiian shirts are essential. Our Mai Tai is a fruity balance of lime, orange, almond and spice complemented by Virgin Islands rum.
The Mai Tai is 200 calories and 9.0g carbs per 12 oz can.
Margarita — 7.5 percent ABV
Fling yourself south of the border, where shoes give way to sandals and mariachi mingles with the music of the waves. A mouthwatering blend of salty, sweet and sour, our Margarita is crafted with Mean Mule American Agave spirit, offering a lively, refreshing spin on a perennial favorite.
“American agave spirit” is an emerging liquor segment that essentially means tequila, except made in the U.S., much in the vein that “American single malt” whiskey can’t be called scotch. The Margarita is 195 calories and 7.2g carbs per 12 oz can.
Stay tuned for a Paste tasting of all these canned cocktails, coming somewhere down the line.