Is the Pacific Northwest equivalent of White Claw Summer on the horizon? After 140 years of mainly sticking to beer, Rainier has released a series of hard seltzers in its lineup. The drinks come in three flavors (huckleberry, apple, and lemon), have a light 4.6 percent ABV, and are available for retail as 12-packs in local supermarkets, convenience stores, and liquor shops throughout Washington and Oregon. Rainier Seltzers will expand to Idaho and Montana (and possibly Alaska) later in 2021.
Rainier Beer — which started in Seattle back in the 19th century and is now owned by California-based Pabst Brewing Company — is evoking one of their famed ad campaigns in promoting the new products. The old “Wild Rainier” commercials once starred Mickey Rooney on safari, hunting down an anthropomorphic, bipedal beer bottle in the jungle, and the bizarre creatures continued to appear throughout the decades, including a revival in 2019 when the brand introduced its lighter beer, Rainier Summit.
Bringing the gimmick back, Rainier calls the seltzers a “new species” and a “majestic sight to behold,” with the breeds “swimming in cold PNW waters and roaming the alpine mountains of Cascadia.” (Though the parent company is in California, the Rainier Seltzer concept, flavors, and packaging were developed by teams located in the Northwest.)
Flights of marketing fancy aside, the offerings seem similar to other low-calorie carbonated fruit alcohol that have been so ubiquitous over the past couple of years. And the effort follows other major beer labels that have tried to cash in on that sweet, sweet hard seltzer hype, including Bud Light, Corona, and Coors. It isn’t hard to see why such companies are hopping on the boozy bandwagon, since hard seltzer sales totaled $4 billion over the past year and one major financier estimates that the category could reach 20 percent of beer sales over the next five years.
Rainier’s new foray also isn’t the first time the brand has made a major change recently. In September 2020, it introduced a line of liquor called Mountain Fresh Gin, which was the first time Rainier has made anything besides beer since Prohibition. Meanwhile, back in the early 20th century, the company briefly concocted a lime rickey soda mixer, kind of a hard seltzer precursor.