Liquor Laboratory

Hard Seltzer vs Beer: What’s the Difference? (2024 Updated)

Hard Seltzer vs Beer

When it comes to refreshing alcoholic beverages, beer and hard seltzer are our top two options.

While we like beer for its diverse range of flavors spanning traditions, we commend hard seltzers for bringing a refreshing twist with their lower-calorie count and fruit flavors.

But between these two beverages, which can provide the ultimate experience? Let’s help you decide as we compare hard seltzer vs beer in this article.

Hard Seltzer vs Beer Comparison

Hard Seltzer on a Glass

Both beer and hard seltzer share a common brewing process involving fermentation from sugars and adding yeast.

But the true difference is that most beers use malted grains and additives, imparting various flavors.

“Good people drink good beer.” – Hunter S. Thompson, American Journalist

Conversely, hard seltzer utilizes fermented cane sugar, fruit juice, and flavorings producing low-calorie, fruity combinations like pear and elderflower.

With around 100 calories per can and lower alcohol content of about 2-4%, most hard seltzers captured us with their lightness and easy-drinking nature.

As for beers, it contains about 180 calories per can with an alcoholic content of 4-6% ABV, perfect for drinkers looking for a more complex yet refreshing beverage. But what’s the best low-calorie seltzer?

Hard Selter vs Beer Cheat Sheet


Hard Seltzer


Average Price

around $15-$25/12-pack

around $6-$9/16oz

Primary Ingredients

sugar cane, carbonated water

mops, malt, barley 

Alcohol Content

2-5% ABV

4-6% ABV

Flavor Options

fruity like pear, blueberry, etc.

complex like lager, ales, and stouts

Caloric Content

100 kcal

180 kcal 

Taste Profile

sweet and fruity 

hoppy, malty, and earthy

Gluten Content





Refreshing Factor


Fermentation Process

Sugars are fermented by yeast to alcohol

Yeast feeds on sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide




Star Rating



Main Differences

Pouring Beer on a Glass

Primary Ingredients

The beer uses water, malted grains, mops, and barley, while hard seltzers use fermented cane sugars with water that undergoes a carbonation process.

But do you know what the top hard seltzers are?

Alcohol Content

The alcohol content of hard seltzers (2-5% ABV) is lower than beers (4-6% ABV). While there are non-alcoholic seltzers, there are spiked seltzers with an ABV ranging from 4-6%, similar to beers [1].

Flavor Options

The beer boasts a wide range of natural flavors derived from its brewing process, including various styles such as lagers, ales, and stouts [2].

In contrast, spiked seltzer provides fruit combinations like pear and elderflower or blueberry and acai, perfect if you’re looking for a lighter and more refreshing flavor.

Caloric Content

Regarding calories, we go for spiked seltzer with only around 100kcal per can, which is lower than the beer’s (estimated) 180kcal per serving.

So, the fizzy water of hard seltzer is a healthier option (if you’re careful of the “health halo” effect) for its fewer calories and carbohydrates.

Read: Dark Beer & Light Beer Compared

Taste Profile

Opening a Can of Drinks

Beer typically has a more complex and robust flavor, with variations ranging from bitter and hoppy to sweet and malty, perfect for mixed drinks.

In contrast, spiked seltzer provides a light, fizzy, and sugary flavor, often resembling soda water with a subtle alcohol kick.

Read: Crowler vs Growler

Gluten Content

Beer drink is typically brewed using fermented grains such as barley, which contains gluten, making it unsuitable for individuals with gluten sensitivities.

On the other hand, hard seltzer is made using cane sugar and fruit juice, which do not contain gluten. So, hard seltzer is deemed gluten-free, suitable for those with gluten-related dietary restrictions.


Both beer and seltzer beverages are carbonated. However, hard seltzer tends to have higher levels of carbonation, resulting in a more pronounced and lively fizziness.

Conversely, beer’s carbonation is generally milder, giving a smoother and less bubbly mouthfeel.

Read: Canned Beer & Bottled Beer Compared

Refreshing Factor

We like hard seltzer’s refreshing quality due to its lightness, fizz, and fruity flavors.

“Taste and preference: The essence of beer vs hard seltzer.” – Liquor Laboratory

A beer drink can also be refreshing, though its fuller-bodied nature may provide a different immediate refreshment than hard seltzer.

Fermentation Process

Two Glasses of Beer

A drink like beer undergoes traditional brewing and fermentation using grains and yeast. On the contrary, hard seltzer falls into the “flavored malt beverage” category, employing cane sugar, yeast, and fruit fermentation.

Read: Shandy & Radler Compared


No doubt – hard seltzer’s popularity has surged, challenging beer’s long-standing dominance.

Its lightness, low-calorie content, and fruity appeal have attracted a broad consumer base, reshaping the alcoholic beverage market.

Do They Have Similarities?

Yes, beer and hard seltzer drink share similarities. Both undergo fermentation and carbonation, resulting in refreshing alcoholic beverages. They are also carbonated drinks.

Read: White Claw vs Kirkland Hard Seltzer


Is hard seltzer better for you than beer?

Hard seltzer is better than beer if you’re looking for a healthy option since seltzer is lower in carbs, sugar, and alcohol, with other nutrients present.

Is drinking White Claw better than beer?

Drinking White Claw is better if you want a beverage with fewer calories and gluten-free. Also, spiked seltzers are low in ABV compared to beer drinks.

Does hard seltzer have less sugar than beer?

Yes, hard seltzer drinks generally have less sugar than beer, as it’s made with cane sugar and fruit instead of grains.

Are Hard Seltzer and Beer similar in alcohol content?

Both hard seltzer and beer can vary in alcohol content, but hard seltzers often have a lower alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage compared to many beers. Hard seltzers typically range from 4% to 6% ABV, while beers can range from around 4% to 10% ABV or higher for craft and specialty beers.

Which one typically contains more calories: Hard Seltzer or Beer?

Hard seltzer generally contains fewer calories than beer, as it is often made with carbonated water and natural flavors with minimal additional sugars. However, this can vary depending on the specific brand and recipe.

Do Hard Seltzers and Beer have similar flavor profiles?

Hard seltzers typically have a lighter, crisper flavor profile with fruit or botanical undertones, whereas beers can have a broader range of flavors including malty, hoppy, fruity, and spicy notes depending on the style.

Are Hard Seltzers gluten-free like some beers?

Many hard seltzers are naturally gluten-free since they are made with fermented sugars rather than grains like barley or wheat. However, consumers should check labels to ensure the product is gluten-free if they have gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.

Which one is more refreshing: Hard Seltzer or Beer?

Both hard seltzer and beer can be refreshing, but hard seltzer is often perceived as lighter and more hydrating due to its carbonation and lower calorie content. Beer may be preferred by some for its variety of flavors and textures.

Key Takeaways

Between beer vs spiked seltzer, each provides distinct flavors, ABV, and refreshment levels. The rich taste of beer has stood the test of time, making it a good choice if you want something complex yet refreshing.

But if you’re like us, seeking a drink that leans toward the healthier side, we find hard seltzer the ultimate choice for its low calories and zero-gluten option.


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