- White Claw, an absurdly popular brand of low-calorie spiked seltzer, has been deemed the drink of the summer, bolstered by viral support from self-proclaimed “bros.”
- I effortlessly ignored the drink for months because when I want an alcoholic drink, I want beer, and when I want a seltzer, I don’t want alcohol.
- But my fiancé, the sort of anti-bro I last expected to jump on the Claw wagon, became obsessed with the brand and began filling our fridge with it. My office and bodega have become White Claw enablers as well.
- I had to take a stand. White Claw, though appealing to many people for valid reasons, is not beer and should stop being sold and talked about like it’s a fair trade. The logic that White Claw is ‘healthier’ is flawed too.
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“Hey babe, can we please watch ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ tonight?”
The fact that the question was coming from a 38-year-old, 6-foot-3 bearded man didn’t faze me. What did startle me, though, was that when I turned to respond “Of course!” he was holding a shiny White Claw.
Summer 2019 was the season of spiked seltzer and, most dominantly, White Claw. I knew the brand – with its relatively low calorie content (100 cals per 12-ounce can), decent alcohol content (5% alcohol by volume), and viral endorsements by self-proclaimed “bros” – was a thing.
But until that Monday moment, the beverage was barely in my peripheral vision.
As a Wisconsin native who keeps a koozie in her purse, the date of the wheat ale Bell’s Oberon’s annual release in her calendar, and a mental map of which bars serve Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweissbier on draft, what happens in the world of wine or liquor has never thrown my beer-centric orbit off course.
And my fiancé, a documentary filmmaker I met at a now-defunct East Village dive bar drinking whiskey and Bud, is the sort of anti-bro I last expected to threaten my lager love by jumping on the WC wagon.
But after that fateful Monday night, White Claw was regularly hydrating him, phrases like “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws” were punctuating household vocabulary, and – worst of all – the beers our taste buds had once agreed upon (the likes of Sloop Brewing’s Juice Bomb IPA and Lagunitas’ A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’) were swiftly being replaced on our fridge shelves with White Claw in raspberry, black cherry, and mango.
This, I’ve decided, is no longer a problem I can ignore.
The idea that sparkling seltzer is a ‘healthier’ option than beer comes with caveats
To be clear: I have no problem with the existence of spiked seltzer – including White Claw – or even the taste. Yes, I’ve tried the trendy beverage and understand why a sweet, fizzy libation appeals to many people and suits many situations. I also understand that it’s a welcome option for people who need to avoid gluten.
But I do take issue with the argument that choosing White Claw is healthier than beer – and even a good option for weight loss – because it has relatively few calories (100 per 12-ounce can) for a decent alcohol content (5% ABV).
It’s a logical argument when you consider that beer drinkers typically sacrifice booziness for “liteness” – a 12-ounce Miller Lite can has 96 calories for 4.2% alcohol, for example, while a 12-ounce pour of Stone IPA has 200 calories for 6.9% alcohol.
But let’s look at the bigger picture. Are you really trading every would-have-been-IPA for a White Claw, no more, no less? Doubt it. Part of the Claw’s popularity is its drinkability, which is also a flaw if you’re trying to limit your drinking and your calories. Where before you may have had one or two richer beers, you could now mindlessly slam four Claws – making the calorie talk a wash.
And since your belly probably won’t feel as full on the Claw either, it may be easier to unknowingly eat more than if you had chosen a beer with a bad rep for being “heavy.”
But really, all of this is relatively moot because weight loss and overall health is about a lot more than calories. Sure, cutting a few here and there can add up. And if opting for a Claw over a beer empowers you to make healthier choices in other areas of your life, then cheers.
But alcohol in any form can affect your waistline. Not just because it’s caloric, but also because it interferes with your sleep, hormones, digestion, and other body operations that affect how much you weigh and how you feel.
To compare White Claw to beer is ‘worse than comparing apples to oranges’ – but everyone is doing it anyway
Another problem, from my beer goggles, is that White Claw has not acted as just another option in the alcohol industry, but as an actual replacement for beer – and not just in my home.
When I escaped to work, I realised that the White Claw infection had spread to my office. Where there once was a rotating mix of pilsners, pale ales, and seasonal brews from the likes of Brooklyn Brewery and Magic Hat Brewing Company in our communal kitchen, there is now an insulting stockpile of White Claw. And my colleagues actually seem happy about it.
Meanwhile, a whole refrigerator at the bodega where I’ve been most loyal now stocks White Claw in lieu of Blue Moon and other staple suds. Even when I travelled to Asheville, North Carolina – a beer mecca with more breweries per capita than any other US city – White Claw was on the very limited menu of the first craft brewery I went to.
But considering one a valid alternative to the other misunderstands what seltzer or beer actually are.
“To compare White Claw to beer is worse than comparing apples to oranges,” Joy Dubost, a dietitian and beer steward of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, told me. The drink would be in much more accurate company with mixed spirit beverages like vodka and juice, she added.
When I want an alcoholic beverage, I want beer. When I want a seltzer, I don’t want alcohol. Am I alone?
People who are satisfied with White Claw as a substitute for beer don’t know good beer
White Claw advocates (aka apparently the whole world) are also perpetuating the belief that if you used to drink beers – and IPAs specifically – you can now drink White Claw instead and be just as, if not more, satisfied.
“If I’m at a party now and someone offers me an IPA or a White Claw, I definitely take a White Claw,” Ben Shea, a producer in Santa Monica, previously told Business Insider.
The most viral video celebrating the Claw also pokes fun at people who “still” drink IPAs.
But while I can stomach White Claw as an alternative to light beers (a role it’s owning while other beer brands try to keep up), I can’t be an innocent bystander when serious beers get thrown under the keg. The way I see it, people who are satisfied by White Claws in the same ways that they were satisfied with IPAs never actually had the taste for good beer to begin with.
Where good IPAs are complex – especially, in my opinion, the increasingly popular New England style that can somehow taste both light and rich, sweet and bitter, carbonated and smooth – White Claws are one-dimensional. Where good IPAs deserve a proper pour and a slow intake, White Claws are slammable. Where good IPAs enhance the flavour of a grilled steak or even a handful of nuts, White Claws merely wash them down. Where good IPAs fill me up, White Claw lets me down.
Choose the Claw ’cause you like it, not because you think it’s the ticket to your bikini body or an adequate replacement for beer.
After all, summer 2019 is unofficially over. Thank God.
Millennials are shunning beer because they say it makes them ‘fat’We taste-tested hard seltzers from 9 popular brands and ranked them from worst to bestAfter a summer dominated by White Claw, the world is getting its first-ever spiked seltzer festival with unlimited samples
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