Utah Legislature moves to banish nearly half of hard seltzers, Robert Gehrke writes. Time to deploy Seltzer Squad.

If you’re tired of living in a nanny state with an irrational liquor policy, now is the time to contact your state reps, Gehrke writes.

This January 2020 photo shows a selection of hard seltzer on a counter in New York. The most recent "it drink" is hard seltzer, served on plenty of patios and sidewalk tables during this pandemic summer. Hard seltzer, also known as spiked seltzer or hard sparkling water, contains carbonated water, alcohol and flavoring. (Cheyenne Cohen/Katie Workman via AP)

There are a couple of things that, no matter how hard you try, are simply incomprehensible.

One is how Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson ended up with Kim Kardashian (and before that singer Ariana Grande).

The only thing that makes less sense is Utah liquor law. And, unless there is a major mobilization of the Seltzer Squad, they’re about to get even more confounding.

A provision included in this year’s liquor reform bill at the Utah Capitol would toss roughly half of the wildly popular hard seltzers from grocery store shelves.

It’s not because they’re somehow too potent. Most have less alcohol than is allowed in order to cut calories. And while seltzers are popular with young people, that’s not really the problem, either, or half wouldn’t be left on shelves.

What it comes down to is the type of flavoring they use. Those that use a glycol-based flavoring would be fine. Those that use a flavoring that contains ethyl alcohol would be banished.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

To be clear, the ethyl alcohol isn’t where the alcohol in these hard seltzers comes from. It’s an additive used in the flavoring, the same way it is used in things like some teriyaki sauces or mustards.

But back during the “Alco-pop” wars of 2008, there was an effort to banish sweet beverages that lawmakers said were targeted at youth and were a gateway to harder alcohol and drugs. Under the arrangement, drinks that had alcohol added to them rather than deriving it from the fermentation process could only be sold in state liquor stores.

Under the new proposal — that according to Fox 13′s Ben Winslow who broke the story, was crafted with input from groups that oppose liberalizing liquor laws and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the ban would include the flavoring in seltzers, meaning some popular from popular brands would disappear.

“It’s just that the manufacturing process is not currently approved under Utah law,” said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, sponsor of Senate Bill 176.

According to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 80 seltzers are currently approved to be sold in Utah supermarkets and gas stations. Under the proposed change, 39 would no longer meet the criteria, including some big names and flavors — like nearly all of the Vizzy brand flavors and many of those from big names like BonViv, Truly, Bud Light and Coors.

And it’s not a question of brand. In some instances, it comes down to specific flavors. Maybe grapefruit makes the cut but watermelon doesn’t. That could pose further problems since most seltzers are sold in variety packs, and if one flavor doesn’t meet the criteria the whole pack would have to be pulled from shelves or reconfigured.

Oh, and those new hard kombuchas? Forget it. They’re gone.

Gone where? Most likely just gone altogether because there is no way that Utah liquor stores have the space to stock all of these banished products on their shelves. And if they do, something else has to go.

“It’s crazy,” said Cody McKendrick, who owns Bewilder Brewing Co. and teaches beer brewing through The University of Utah, when I called him to understand the process a little better. “What does it matter if some of the alcohol content comes from the flavoring?”

Exactly! It’s nonsense, illogical and serves no discernible purpose. And it’s what happens when liquor policy is set by people who not only don’t drink, but are frightened by people who do.

From the perspective of the consumer, alcohol is alcohol. From a public safety perspective, it doesn’t matter where alcohol comes from or how it’s derived, just how much is consumed. That’s where the line should be drawn.

If you make a beer that is 5% alcohol by volume, sell it in a grocery store. If you make a seltzer that is 5%, sell it in a grocery store, regardless of how it’s made.

A cider? Is it under 5%? Sell it in a grocery store.

Heck, you want to try to make a 5% wine? Knock yourself out.

Because if the state’s expressed interest in regulating alcohol are two-fold — limiting underage drinking and protecting public safety (and three if you count making a ton of profit) — how the beverage is made doesn’t matter. Potency does.

That discussion is obviously for another day. Now, we should be focused on at least maintaining the status quo and not backsliding on the slow progress to normalize the state’s alcohol policy.

So if you like your seltzers — or even if you don’t and you’re just tired of living in a nanny state with irrational liquor policy — now is the time to visit le.utah.gov, find your legislator and let him or her know you’re an adult and want the state to keep its hands off your seltzers. Now is your moment Seltzer Squad.


According to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, these 39 flavors of seltzers will no longer be allowed to be sold in grocery stores under the proposed Senate Bill 176.

BonViv Spike Seltzer Black Cherry

BonViv Spiked Seltzer Coconut Pineapple

Bon Viv Spiked Cranberry

Bon Viv Grapefruit

Bon Viv Lemon Lime

Bud Light Seltzer Lemon Lime

Bud Light Seltzer Mango

Bud Light Seltzer Strawberry

Coors Pure Berry

Coors Citrus

Coors Black Cherry

Coors Grapefruit

Coors Seltzer Mango

Coors Seltzer Raspberry

Leinenkugels Grapefruit

Leinenkugels Pineapple Strawberry

Leinenkugels Spritzen Raspberry Lemon

Pompette Clementine Berry

Pompette Cucumber Lime

Pompette Grapefruit Bergamot

Pompette Lemon Mint

Pompette Rose Hibiscus

Truly Hard Seltzer Lemon Tea

Truly Hard Seltzer Peach Tea

Truly Hard Seltzer Raspberry Tea

Truly Hard Seltzer Strawberry Tea

Vizzy Black Cherry Lime

Vizzy Blackberry Lemon

Vizzy Blueberry Pomegranate

Vizzy Blueberry Watermelon

Vizzy Kiwi Watermelon

Vizzy Mango Watermelon

Vizzy Papaya Passionfruit

Vizzy Pineapple Mango

Vizzy Raspberry Lemonade

Vizzy Raspberry Tangerine

Vizzy Strawberry Kiwi

Vizzy Strawberry Lemonade

Vizzy Watermelon Strawberry

In addition, 14 hard kombuchas will only be available in state liquor stores.