Chicago has wine bars, bars devoted to craft beer, and others that focus on whiskey and other spirits.
But, in a summer after multiple stay-at-home orders and the halt of on-premise service that kept customers away from bars, here’s a new thought: What about a bar devoted to spiked seltzers?
Seltzers accounted for $4.5 billion in sales from May 2020 to May 2021. This tastes like an opportunity so the Kimpton Gray Hotel in the Loop devoted a portion of its ground floor for its Seltzer Shop pop-up serving 10 types of seltzer and 25 flavors like “lemon-strawberry kiss,” “mojito,” and “passionfruit elderflower.” The pop-up takes place from Fridays through Sundays and goes through August 8. While major players like Budweiser and Corona are pumping out their own varieties of hard seltzer in an effort to normalize the drink (hoping it’s not a fleeting trend like Not Your Father’s Root Beer) there’s no plans to make the pop-up permanent at the Kimpton, according to a hotel spokesperson.
Spiked seltzers like White Claw are eating away at marketshare and some craft breweries (like Logan Square’s Hopewell Brewing) are making their own to draw customers. Hard seltzers and other ready-to-drink canned beverages (hello, Smooj) also pose a threat to the wine industry. With less sugar and calories versus beer, seltzers provide an option that won’t wreck a diet or derail health goals. At Seltzer Shop, customers can order seltzer flights and do blind tastings with brads like Two Chicks, Sesh, High Moon, and Flying Ember.
The pop-up is a partnership with Rose Gold Collective, a marketing company that throws events. The organizers reached out to variety of seltzer makers, offering them a marketing opportunity to put their brand in front of the Kimpton’s customers. A spokesperson points out that in 2018 there were about 10 well-known seltzer brands and that number’s grown to 65 in 2021. But many, like White Claw, have deep pockets, and thus are able to pay the costs associated to be parts of events like the pop-up.
Still, for all the exposure the event could provide, there are other brands like locally made Half Past Premium Hard Seltzer that aren’t part of the pop-up. Founders Avery Houser and Caleigh Tully have struck deals locally with Binny’s and Foxtrot. They’re hoping for national distribution down the line.
Kimpton hopes that the gimmick will give their guests something a little extra to brighten their stays. Seltzers have become a mainstay at festivals like the Windy City Smokeout. Expect to see a large presence next week in Grant Park at Lollapalooza.
The Seltzer Shop at the Kimpton Gray Hotel, 122 W. Monroe Street, pop-up takes place on from 5 p.m to 9 p.m. on Fridays and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from July 23-25; July 30-31; and August 1 and 6-8.