Official 'Warheads' Hard Seltzers Debut at a Small New York Craft Brewery
Warheads—the sour candy brand that has been puckering American mouths since the '90s—is about to get an official hard seltzer. But the buzzworthy new product with mainstream nostalgic appeal is coming from a very unlikely place: a small craft brewery in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Artisanal Brew Works was founded in 2015 by two former high school teachers—Kurt Borchardt and Colin Quinn—originally with the intent to focus on Belgian-style beers. But the freedom of having their own brewery also allowed them to experiment, churning out other styles like double dry-hopped double IPAs and English browns—and last year, another idea: a sour beer inspired by the sour candy Warheads.
Oftentimes, small breweries take an idea like that and just go with it—simply hoping no legal issues arise—but Artisanal Brew Works reached out to the company behind Warheads, Impact Confections. "We figured that we'd jump out in front of it and just ask them if they were interested in working with us," Quinn, who beyond co-founder and co-owner is also a co-brewer, told me. "As it turns out, they were very receptive, and really, really cool."
The initial test batch proved popular, and now, Warheads Sours—which come in the classic Watermelon, Green Apple, Black Cherry, Lemon, and Blue Raspberry flavors—are part of the brewery's regular lineup, packaged in colorful cans that distinctly resemble the candy's labels. The 5-percent ABV sour beers even use the exact same flavorings used by Impact Confections.
However, as of this past weekend, Artisanal has a brand new, even more on-trend release arriving: Warheads Hard Seltzers. "After making the Warheads beers for a while, the seltzers seemed like such a natural progression of that," Quinn continued. "It seemed like something that would work really well that would make people happy."
The brewery explains that these (also) 5-percent ABV candy collaborations are "are refreshing, sweet, tart, and totally unlike any seltzer you've had before," intended to be "true to the candy," mimicking "the point when the Warheads candy transitions from the sour phase to the flavor phase." The seltzers—which are already available for pre-order for curbside pickup at the brewery via their website—come in the same flavors as the beers, with a four-pack of 16-ounce cans selling for $15.
With the recent hard seltzer explosion, a Warheads version was sure to generate plenty of excitement. But Quinn said they had another motivation for making these Artisanal's first hard seltzers. "We run a taproom, too," he said, "and we've had a lot of people come in with our regular customers who are gluten-free. So to offer something that's not beer, that's also fun for them, was a consideration."
Unlike the beers, this first test release of the seltzers will be sold almost entirely from the brewery's taproom. But Quinn said if all goes well, Warheads Hard Seltzer could also join the brewery's regular production schedule. At that point, the seltzers would be pushed out to Artisanal's larger distribution network—which beyond New York also includes California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. That said, be forewarned, as the "Artisanal" in their name implies, supplies will still be limited and only available in select retailers. Who knew Warheads Hard Seltzers would be so upmarket?
And even if the Warheads Hard Seltzers are sold out, maybe give other Artisanal Brew Works beers a try. They're not all candy collabs: "We're pretty eclectic," Quinn added. "We swing from the crazy, fun candy beers to really serious New England-style IPAs and even really classic styles like pilsners and very traditional Belgians."