Hard Seltzer Is the Drink of the Summer. We Put Nine Brands Up to a Blind Taste Test.

It’s true, a lot of them taste like nothing. But we found some outliers that just might work for your palate.

It seems like just yesterday that America fell in love with carbonated water.

Only a few summers ago, seltzer became the canned beverage of the moment, overtaking soda in sales for the first time. But we probably should've predicted the public would get bored of fizzy water alone.

Related: We Blind-Tasted Every Sparkling Water We Could Find in Portland.

Now, behold the new drink of the summer: hard seltzer.

It was only a matter of time, really. At first, the notion of alcohol-spiked seltzer seemed directed at the health-conscious—with low sugar, carbs and typically fewer than 100 calories, yet still coming in with the same ABV as a light beer. Today, the most prominent hard seltzer makers are backed by the nation's beer giants, and some liquor labels have even gotten in on it.

In an effort to understand this mounting trend, we gathered all the hard seltzer brands we could find in Portland for a blind taste test. Since there isn't a single common flavor between all brands, we selected two flavors to represent each company, and each taster gave the brand an overall score between 1 and 100, averaged below.

It's true, a lot of them taste like nothing. But we found some outliers that just might work for your palate.

1. SeekOut (77.1 points)

Representative flavors: Cucumber & Juniper, Key Lime & Mint

Alcohol content: 5%

Oregon's own 2 Towns CiderHouse stepped into the hard seltzer game in March, and its approach is to keep things simple. Unlike many of its big-name competitors, SeekOut uses real fruit and water, and we could taste the difference—whereas many other brands' attempts to juice up the flavor came out tasting medicinal, SeekOut tasted noticeably more like, well, fruit.

Tasting notes: "Definitely tastes like it's organic." "The only one that definitely has a taste—not like the illusion of a flavor." "Light, refreshing—this is what I'd like to drink on a 90-degree day in Portland."

2. White Claw (75.41 points)

Representative flavors: Mango, Ruby Grapefruit

Alcohol content: 5%

White Claw is the face of the hard seltzer market, and rightfully so. As the younger cousin of Mark Anthony Brands' other big seller in the booze-infused beverage department, Mike's Hard Lemonade, it lives up to the hype. While it lacks a distinctive flavor profile, it manages to mask any hint of alcohol, coming perhaps the closest to tasting like a regular La Croix or other virgin seltzer—which can be dangerous, depending on the situation. Regardless, White Claw is a crowd pleaser across the board, whether you're looking for an easy-sipping seltzer or an easy buzz.

Tasting notes: "The one I'd drink the most of without realizing, then pass out while rafting on the Sandy on a hot summer day." "Tamer than the others. It's not here to run the show, just wants to chill near the back and make witty comments." "Though one did smell of hand soap, I actually admired its nonexistent flavor. It was just…seltzer."

3. Bon & Viv (69.67 points)

Representative flavors: Prickly Pear, Black Cherry Rosemary

Alcohol content: 4.5%

Originally known as simply "Spiked Seltzer" before a rebranding, Bon & Viv created the market after noticing the high demand for vodka sodas in the summer. A recent acquisition by Anheuser-Busch earned it the first-ever Super Bowl commercial for a hard seltzer brand, but we appreciated it for its uniquely complex flavors, which, while often strange, were not quite a turnoff.

Tasting notes: "All nutmeg and clove—great in a Christmas cookie, a little weird in a summery seltzer." "Spicy in a way I don't associate with seltzer. I don't know if I like it, but it's not bad."

4. Truly (68 points)

Representative flavors: Blueberry & Acai, Raspberry Lime

Alcohol content: 5%

From Boston Beer Company comes another big name in the hard seltzer industry. Coming in less than 10 points below its main competitor, White Claw, this seltzer shares the similar bland, alcohol-concealing quality that could easily be confused for a nonalcoholic seltzer. Yet Truly does it with manifold flavor combos that ultimately don't work quite as well as White Claw.

Tasting notes: "Probably the easiest jump to hard seltzer if you're a chronic LaCroix drinker." "Could probably black out to this one."

5. Crook & Marker (63.83 points)

Representative flavors: Strawberry Lemon, Tangerine

Alcohol content: 4%

This one boasts a few unique qualities: It has zero grams of sugar; it's non-GMO; and most astonishingly, it's not the translucent seltzer you've come to expect. We were excited and horrified to see this seltzer had color—bright, bold, nearly neon hues, which were matched with a syrupy thickness. In fact, we were convinced the flavor profile was strong enough to make 10 of the others. Points for ingenuity, but there's a reason many hard seltzers aim for subtlety.

Tasting notes: "Gives off all the charm of bubbly cough syrup." "Looks and tastes like a cavity in the making. Yum."

6. Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer (62 points)

Representative Flavors: Watermelon, Berry Lemonade

Alcohol content: 4.5%

If hard seltzer's spiritual cousin is the vodka soda, then it's fair game for Smirnoff to join the fray. But truthfully, the pronounced artificial flavors will remind recent college grads of Smirnoff Ice, just more watered down. Even so, the room was split on our affinity for this notably fake and sugary variety. Some retched, others rejoiced over the bubblegum flavor—never mind that it was actually watermelon.

Tasting notes: "Like Big League Chew after you've gnawed on it for five minutes." "The smell reminds me of that foam cleaning agent they use at the dentist's office." "If you could sleep on a bed of bubblegum, that's what it would feel like."

7. Henry’s Hard (55.34 points)

Representative flavors: Pineapple, Peach Mango

Alcohol content: 4.2%

The jump from hard soda to hard seltzer probably wasn't too difficult for Miller Coors, and it did it with two things in mind: calories and sugar. With 88 calories per 12-ounce can, this one nearly takes home the title for fewest calories, just barely edged out by San Juan Seltzer. But was flavor spared in the process? Seems like it.

Tasting notes: "Tastes like sad apricots." "Barely tastes spiked."

8. San Juan (44.67 points)

Representative flavors: Huckleberry, Rainier Cherry

Alcohol content: 4.2%

With Pacific Northwest-themed flavors, this Washington-based company appealed to our regional pride—and on top of that, at only 85 calories, it was the lowest-calorie seltzer of the tasting. The drawback? Pretty much everything. What should have been sweet took a turn toward the savory and lost us along the way.

Tasting notes: "I would rather have lime in an open wound." "Tastes like a bad batch of kombucha that my mom made once." "Have you ever taken a pickle back shot? That's what this tastes like."

9. Sound Craft (28.83 points)

Representative flavors: Grapefruit, Cucumber

Alcohol content: 5%

Last year, from sister companies Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Company, came an entry into the hard seltzer world with an emphasis on high-quality, organic ingredients. They call it the "craft option" of the hard seltzer market. But what was a noble pursuit fell way short—the organic, no-nonsense flavors fail to hold up against the larger brands, while some of our tasters couldn't get over the smell, which was less fruit-forward and more yeast-heavy.

Tasting notes: "Distinct yeast stank." "Tastes like straight-up boxed wine." "Smells like aged cheese mixed with a poorly fermented fruit." "I literally gagged."