what: Cola Hard Pineapple Seltzer
where: River Rat Brewery, 1231 Shop Rd., 803-724-5712, riverratbrewery.com
ABV: 5 percent
price: $5.50 per pint
Cola Hard is a good name for a hard seltzer made in Soda City. Given River Rat Brewery’s location — in the shadow of the University of South Carolina’s football home at Williams-Brice Stadium, and with a popular rooftop bar looking out at the enormous sports venue — I personally might have played into the geography and off of the White Claw brand with something like Garnett Spur, but Cola Hard definitely works.
And, as much as I’m the kind of craft beer snob who looks down his nose at the current wave of Trulys and Spikeds, I also have no quibbles with the naturally pineapple flavored malt beverage that River Rat serves under the Cola Hard name.
Pouring clear, with a yellowish/brownish tint, the nose is unsurprisingly sweet, alive with ripe pineapple, sugar and a hint of coconut oil. A thin but stubborn head remains through the first half of the beverage, with tiny bubbles that feel nice on the top lip. Each sip is effervescently carbonated — especially the early ones, but the bubbles are impressively resilient — augmenting the drink’s mercifully refreshing dryness. There’s no cloying sweetness or musty malt aftertaste here. Instead, you get an alcoholic soda with a pleasantly subtle pineapple flavor that snaps (almost) like a fruit-flavored Pellegrino.
Be warned: It’s dangerously drinkable, giving little indication that you’re imbibing alcohol. But that’s pretty much the point with hard seltzer, so good on River Rat for hitting the mark.
Here’s hoping the brewery finds similar success with other flavors — and keeps them pouring during Columbia’s famously hotter months.