On social media and in commercials, onerous seltzer has a really particular tradition: dancing youth and neon lights, zoomers on seashores and boats listening to the Chainsmokers and Submit Malone. However is that the demographic that really drinks these items in actual life? Not solely—I do know this as a result of my mates and I drink onerous seltzer and we positively don’t reside that life (and once I do dance, it’s to stuff like this). So once I heard about Seltzerland, a tough seltzer competition that’s hitting 12 U.S. cities this summer season, I knew I needed to examine. To my information, Seltzerland is the primary of its type, i.e. a touring competition devoted to showcasing a few of onerous seltzer’s largest manufacturers, from White Claw and Coors Seltzer to Vizzy and Press. It was presupposed to launch final 12 months, however was pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic. Now, as we emerge from our properties able to reside once more, Seltzerland is upon us.“I’m going to completely hate this factor,” I assumed as I stepped out of an Uber within the car parking zone of the Highlands Golf Course in St. Louis for the primary Seltzerland occasion of the 12 months. Strolling as much as the attendee check-in with my buddy Tom to assert our passes, I used to be in a temper. The climate was about 95 levels and humid, and attributable to Covid, the cubicles had been going to be spaced out alongside quite a few holes on the golf course; an FAQ on the web site suggested that attendees ought to “put on comfy footwear and put together for a 2-3 mile stroll by way of the course,” and that there can be no backtracking. In different phrases, as soon as this extraordinarily sizzling prepare left the station, we’d be on it ‘til the bitter finish. To interrupt up the crowds for higher social distancing, folks had been put into teams that might start the journey at totally different instances. Ours was set to begin at 2:10 p.m.Between the rambunctious 20-somethings forward of us in line and the loud EDM music taking part in out of the check-in sales space, I shortly felt a secondary pang of tension and realized that possibly the occasion wasn’t for folks like me, i.e. adults with dangerous attitudes. I questioned if it was too late to show again. As a substitute, in a vital second, I made a decision to embody the ethos of onerous seltzer by telling myself to loosen up and to benefit from the expertise. Strolling in, I ended on the aspect of the trail to arrange my digital camera, slather myself with sunscreen, and complain to Tom one final time. A number of teams of mates handed us on their solution to the primary cease, a small “villa” sponsored by Jose Cuervo’s Playamar tequila onerous seltzer. There was a photograph sales space with a tropical vibe that clashed with the inexperienced astroturf we had been standing on. The schtick is mainly like some other competition: You wait in a line at a model’s sales space, inform them what seltzer taste you wish to attempt, take no matter swag you possibly can carry, and head to the following place. At Playamar, I requested for the lime taste of Cuervo’s seltzer and exchanged my trucker cap for an enormous, floppy Playamar hat. Cuervo’s seltzer was refreshing and tasted OK—one thing I’d positively drink if I used to be handed one at a pool, nevertheless it’s not a product I’d purchase to maintain at dwelling, which roughly describes most onerous seltzers. We regarded out throughout the golf course to the following sales space, Mike’s Onerous Lemonade, and noticed that it was comically far-off. Like, possibly virtually 1 / 4 of a mile. I grumbled as we began down the trail. As a wine man, I’m an enormous fan of tasting occasions, so I made a decision to consider Seltzerland from that perspective. And the additional alongside we acquired, the extra I began to benefit from the expertise. For one, every little thing was extraordinarily spaced out and distant; the one alternatives to get too near anyone had been the strains, which didn’t even have the pretense of social distancing. However, I spotted, even that was advantageous—the federal government has mainly stated it’s time to occasion, and St. Louis doesn’t require masks anymore, so there we had been. Whereas I’d thought the aggressive EDM on the prime would permeate the entire expertise, as soon as we embarked from Playamar, there was one thing weirdly serene about being on this golf course in the course of St. Louis’ Forest Park—one of many largest city parks within the nation—on a busy Saturday afternoon. “That is truly actually quiet and calm,” Tom noticed at one level. He was proper, which appears loopy for a seltzer competition. But it surely’s true. There have been hundreds of individuals there, nevertheless it in some way felt intimate and managed. The vibe was proper. I’m not going to evaluate each particular person seltzer right here; some had been good, some had been dangerous, most had been mediocre. In the end, it wasn’t in regards to the seltzers, however the expertise of making an attempt them, which was nice. One thing in regards to the lengthy walks between cubicles and having time to replicate on every drink truly inspired me to consider what facets I search for in seltzer, and what makes me dislike others. Tasting over 15 in fast succession, I actually noticed the ocean of distinction between drinks just like the nice, earthy apricot almond seltzer from St. Louis’ 4 Fingers Brewing Co. and the practically undrinkably candy, cotton-candy tinged pattern from Glowing Ice Spiked. The seltzer from Mike’s was additionally extraordinarily candy, however as a reformed teenaged—er, sorry, utterly authorized 21-year-old—Mike’s fan, I may see myself completely demolishing these with my homies on the pool or within the park later this summer season. I imply, positive, it is candy, nevertheless it’s lemonade that will get you drunk. What’s to not like? I got here away from Seltzerland with the sensation that almost all seltzers begin with a alternative of whether or not they’re going to be saccharine or savory, although after all one may be each. My favourite by an enormous margin was the pineapple basil seltzer from Press, which I assumed was simply unimaginable. It was natural and floral, tropical with out being candy. It was every little thing I search for in a summer season beverage that isn’t wine or beer. It was at this level that Tom and I agreed that we beloved the competition.When you go to Seltzerland open to studying extra about seltzer manufacturers and fascinated about why (or whether or not) you want them, you’ll in all probability have time. Plus, there are video games alongside the best way, like luggage and adult-sized Jenga, and if you happen to attempt a pattern at every sales space, you’ll be having virtually three full drinks, in line with my math. And that’s not together with the photographs (each of liquor and seltzer) you’re provided at numerous factors. One buddy I encountered truly managed to attain a full can from one of many distributors, and I discovered myself wishing I’d considered doing that with Press’ pineapple basil seltzer. I in all probability may have.There was additionally chaos at Seltzerland—some attendees appeared drunk (a powerful feat contemplating the pattern sizes) and some of the distributors gave the impression to be getting fed up with it. Surprising for an alcohol-centric occasion, I do know. General, although, Seltzerland is a extremely good competition with strong curation, considerate pacing, and a temper that’s weirdly chill, particularly in mild of the truth that for some folks, like Tom and myself, this was their first main public occasion in over a 12 months. I additionally appreciated that the choices had been mixture of native and nationwide manufacturers, which I assume can be true for every cease on this competition’s path. I went into Seltzerland questioning how dangerous it could be due to Covid, however left questioning how dangerous it could have been with out it; right here, the festival-circuit impulse to cram as many individuals as doable right into a too-small plot of land was flipped and reversed, yielding one thing unfold out and relaxed, and one thing that inspired considerate engagement with the topic. I anticipated madness, however folks simply appeared pleased to be there. Hopefully extra festivals going ahead will run issues like Seltzerland, the place, we discovered, the brand new regular is definitely fairly good. Subscribe to the VICE e-newsletter.By signing as much as the VICE e-newsletter you conform to obtain digital communications from VICE that will generally embrace commercials or sponsored content material.