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The 9 Best Hard Iced Teas to Crack Open This Summer

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The rise of hard seltzer over the last half dozen years has given opportunities to other drinks in the flavored malt beverage (FMB) space, such as hard lemonade, Ranch Water and hard sodas. But now, we think it’s time hard iced tea got a closer look.  

The category definitely isn’t new. Boston Beer, for instance, has been making Twisted Tea since 2001, and it’s been among the company’s top performers in sales and volume. However, hard seltzer sales have cooled and beverage makers—namely brewers—of all sizes are looking to get into the boozy iced tea space.  

“When you look at seltzers, there’s a couple of really big national players, but there’s a lot of local players that have been successful,” says Steven Pauwels, chief operating officer of Great Lakes Brewery in Ohio, which just launched its first hard iced tea brand, Sunsail. “It was more of an opportunistic approach. The seltzer segment is so volatile, and almost saturated at this point, but we saw an opportunity in the tea market.”  

Brewers diversifying their portfolio are also able to expand their clientele beyond beer, which happened at Cape May Brewery in New Jersey.  

“We launched our hard lemonade in the tasting room in 2021 and it sold out within days, so as we planned for 2022 and beyond, we knew there was potential with more FMBs and non-beer offerings in our portfolio,” says Alicia Grasso, director of marketing for Cape May Brewery. “We see hard iced tea and hard lemonade consumers as existing Cape May Brewing Company fans who value the quality of our products, while also reaching new consumers who may not necessarily be regular craft beer drinkers.”  

Pauwels adds that wholesalers are also looking for hard tea diversity. “There was a big opportunity for us there to come out with [Sunsail hard tea],” he says. “A lot of companies have tried it, but there is only one brand, so far, that is very successful. And that is Twisted Tea.” 

It’s no surprise as to why Twisted Tea has endured for more than two decades. It’s an easy-to-drink carbonated beverage that offers black tea and lemon flavors and contains a fair amount of sugar. It’s a refreshing indulgence.  

“We’ve grown from a small regional brand to a top beer brand in the country,” says Erica Taylor, senior brand director at Twisted Tea.  

But competition to be the category leader is no longer only coming from brewers, but established tea companies, too. Yes, convenience and grocery store staples like Arizona, Sonic and Lipton have released hard iced teas in a variety of flavors including lemon, honey, strawberry, peach and green teas. Companies that have been in the seltzer space are also adding hard iced tea to the lineups, including Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Bud Light Seltzer.  

If you’re looking to explore this expanding category yourself, here are some hard iced teas to seek out.  

Hard Iced Tea Brands to Know 

Boston Beer Company’s Twisted Tea

The elder of the category, it comes in a variety of flavors and sizes. Sweet, refreshing and familiar, it’s a game day or backyard BBQ staple.

$17 (12-pack 12-ounce cans) Total Wine & More

Cape May Brewery’s Shore Tea

At one point, the brewery had partnered with WaWa, a popular convenience store in the mid-Atlantic states, on a co-branded hard tea. But Cape May Brewery brought the brand back for another season without the relationship. Still, it’s mildly sweet and just right for long vacation stretches.

$ Varies Cape May Brewery

Fifco’s Lipton Hard Iced Tea

The well-known tea brand partnered with Fifco, the brewery behind Genesee, Magic Hat and LeBatt to create a canned lineup of hard teas that include flavors like lemon, peach and strawberry.

$21 (12-pack 12-ounce cans) Gopuff

Mark Anthony Brands’ Mike’s Harder Iced Tea

The company that brought hard lemonade to the general consciousness has an iced tea version on the market, including one that is mixed with lemonade for an adult Arnold Palmer flavor.

$3 (1 23.5-ounce cans) Gopuff

Molson Coors’ Arizona Hard

The convenience store staple now comes in an afterwork version. It has a moderate alcohol level with the familiar flavors of the original, including green tea. While the offering is canned (of course) it does cost a bit more than $.99.

$3 (22-ounce can) GoPuff

Molson Coors’ Arnold Palmer Spiked Half & Half Hard Tea

Looking for the beverage combo that is endorsed by the golfer who made it famous? This half and half is built the golf course or the 19th hole. A classic combination of tea and lemonade with a boozy kick.

$10 (6-pack 12-ounce cans) Total Wine & More

The Best Hard Iced Teas From Our Buying Guide

Owl’s Brew Blackberry Half & Half (Hard Tea; Double Brew, WI)

Plum colored with medium carbonation, this lemon-forward herbal tea concoction gets a earthy boost from underripe berries. The black tea flavor grows with each sip, creating a dry finish. 100 callories. 84 Points.

 

$29 (8-variety pack 12-ounce cans) Owl’s Brew

Owl’s Brew Green Tea and Passion Fruit (Hard Tea; Double Brew, WI)

Pouring the color of mango nectar but without the viscosity, this hard tea brings green leaves to the forefront of the aroma and flavor. Tropical fruit seeds and almost-ripe flesh flavors emerge in the background. Pair with a country vacation and a good book. 100 calories. 86 Points.

 

$29 (8-variety pack 12-ounce cans) Owl’s Brew

Owl’s Brew Skinny Hibiscus Margarita (Hard Tea; Double Brew, WI)

A rich light ruby red in color with a smoky tequila nose mixed with strawberry seeds, the herbal quality of tea comes on mid palate and brings a leafy boost to the spirit and livens the citrus that was otherwise in the background. 110 calories. 84 Points.

$20 (4-pack 20-ounce cans) Owl’s Brew

FAQs 

What Is Hard Iced Tea? 

Hard iced tea is an alcoholic version of iced tea. Often flavored with lemon or other fruits, or blended with lemonade, hard iced teas usually have an alcohol-by-volume (abv) between 4% and 8%.  

How Is Hard Iced Tea Made? 

The process for making hard iced tea is going to look pretty similar across different brands.  

“As far as the brewing process goes, we mix the tea with sugar and hot water in our brew kettle to extract the tea flavor before blending in our neutral malt base,” says Grasso. “We may make some small adjustments at this point to ensure flavor and [the] abv are in specifications. After that, the entire batch is filtered before being carbonated to specification and it’s ready to be enjoyed.” 

What Alcohol Is in Twisted Tea? 

Hard iced tea is a FMB that gets its alcohol from fermented sugar or grain water, which has had much of its flavor removed. It is then blended with flavors or other beverages, like tea, and carbonated before packaging.