This is a paid, sponsored post presented by our friends at SweetWater Brewing.
“Don’t Float the Mainstream” is the mantra SweetWater Brewing has lived and brewed by for the last twenty-six years. Highly focused on quality and innovation, SweetWater Gummies, the brewery’s latest line of fun-drinking, yet higher ABV double IPAs, launched this past summer to set a new standard.
When you think of SweetWater, what beers immediately come to mind? We think a blurred line between hops and cannabis-themed beers—420 Extra Pale Ale, Goin’ Coastal fruited IPA, or 420 Strain G13 IPA.
With Gummies, SweetWater saw an opportunity in the market.
“Consumers are looking for more higher-ABV beers,” says SweetWater VP of Brewing Operations Drew Nelson. “Something they can drink that doesn’t hit them in the face with that high ABV as much, but is instead flavor forward.”
Oftentimes with double IPAs, bitterness and dankness from the high hopping rates can overpower the palate.
“The consumer doesn’t want to taste that nine-and-a-half percent ABV,” says Nelson. “So it was important to us while developing these beers to give them something they wanted at a higher ABV, without that burn, harshness, and bitterness of the alcohol.”
SweetWater wanted to find a way to build up that alcohol without tearing down your tastebuds.
A tall task for sure.
But SweetWater is no stranger to swimming upstream.
Building SweetWater’s Gummies series all starts with the base.
A solid foundation of two-row, wheat, and oats “fills up the flavor and the body of the beer,” explains Nelson.
While a punchy hop like Citra “is just there to really pop all the other flavor that we have going on,” says Nelson. “Not so much to be the front of the show, but to just really tie everything together.”
So far, it sounds like we’re building a seriously solid DIPA. Now here’s where things veer a little whacky.
Launching with two beers in the Gummies line—Fruit Punch IIPA and Tropical IIPA, SweetWater adds natural flavorings and sugar components to mimic those juicy flavors.
“It is important that we keep [these beers] the double IPA, but we didn’t want to make these super hoppy IPAs that were really bitter,” says Nelson.
Imagine instead that you bought a pack of gummy bears, ripped open the bag, picked out your favorite red one, and bit off the head. What do you taste?
Fruit punch? Strawberry? Raspberry? All the above?
“What are those flavors that are really driving? And what are the ones that you pick out when you’re trying to eat your gummy bears?” asks Nelson. “Those are the target flavor profiles with Gummies.”
With Fruit Punch, in particular, Nelson says he thought it was an “out-there idea.” While popular in gummy bears and candies, fruit punch isn’t a spectrum you often see in beer.
Nailing those tasting notes required a lot of experimentation. From concept to can, Gummies Fruit Punch IIPA took about six months to test and tweak.
“We sampled so many different fruit punches just by themselves,” shares Nelson, noting Hi-C as the gold standard, but certainly not the only one they sampled. “I think we’re probably on version twenty-one or twenty-two!”
The experimentation has translated into two varieties that deliver the high…er ABV you’re looking for in an imperial with the juiciness you enjoy in something more like a hazy.
Gummies Fruit Punch IIPA
Nelson points out that with both of these Gummies beers, you should immediately notice the aroma.
“As soon as you crack one open and pour it out, it should fill the entire room with the aroma of either tropical or fruit punch,” says Nelson. “The smell of fruit punch is overwhelming … [it should] bring you back to your days of drinking a Hi-C.”
On the tongue, Fruit Punch drinks with a little bit of cherry and raspberry, and “We even threw a little bit of blueberry in too,” says Nelson. “You’ve got this cocktail of great fruits coming together with a little bit of sweetness to give it that little candy-like finish.”
Despite the 9.5% ABV, Gummies Fruit Punch stays quenchable and quaffable.
“You can have a couple of them and feel pretty good,” says Nelson.
Because have you ever opened up a bag of Gummies and just eaten one?
Gummies Tropical IIPA
To complement the Fruit Punch, the Gummies Tropical IIPA swerves a bit more beachy—pineapple and orange.
“What you’d think of sitting by the beach and having some cocktail or beach drink,” says Nelson.
These sentimental, powerful, and fun flavors have generated a pleasant buzz in the market.
A Potent Popularity, A Future Flavor
Although only in the market since July, SweetWater’s Gummies have already hit those Hi-C notes.
Most notably, these fruity DIPAs have attracted a new type of beer consumer. “They’re not an IPA or lager person,” says Nelson, noting that Fruit Punch and Tropical have flown off the shelves at an equal pace. “They would like something different, and they’ll try a [Gummies] because it’s out there and flavor-forward, meeting the need of a new type of consumer.”
Finding a new niche for SweetWater, the package-only Gummies have impressed enough that the brewery has launched a draft version of Gummies with a lower ABV, Half-A-Gummie, for on-premise accounts.
“We’ve received a lot of great feedback and demand for this,” says Nelson.
Nelson adds that in true SweetWater style, they’re having fun with the branding, crafting a tap handle with a red gummy bear with a bite taken out of it.
Additionally, Nelson divulged SweetWater will drop two new flavors in the Gummies series that will be a part of a larger variety pack.
In early Q1 of 2024, look out for a Cherry Limeade and Watermelon Sour Gummies IIPA to join the OG Fruit Punch and Tropical in twelve-pack because “variety packs are all the rage right now,” says Nelson.
And don’t expect the fun to stop there. “The demand for [Gummies] has driven us to continue to innovate,” says Nelson, noting that SweetWater will never stop experimenting and tweaking to find that perfect Gummies beer.
Everything ties back to SweetWater’s mantra: “Don’t Float the Mainstream.”
“For me, it’s all about quality and innovation,” says Nelson. “We’re trying to go out and do different things, do new things, be innovative, and capture groups of people that may not be the craft beer drinker, but are looking for a new occasion, a new beverage, and something new to try.”
So there’s only one question left to ask: Which Gummies is your favorite?
Where Can I Find SweetWater Gummies Fruit Punch IIPA and Gummies Tropical IIPA?
If you’re ready to pop the top and bite the head off either of these Gummies, you can find both in either 19.2oz cans or a 6-pack of 12oz cans across all of SweetWater’s distribution footprint.
To find a Gummies Fruit Punch IIPA or Gummies Tropical IIPA near you, visit the brewery’s Find SweetWater page.