Jul 27, 2020

A Look Inside Austin’s Newest Tuckie-Founded Hard Seltzer, Blue Norther

By Erica Choo T'21

Blue Norther (noun): 1) A Texas cold front that brings strong winds and a sharp drop in temperature. 2) The best hard seltzer you will ever taste!

Blue Norther is a hard seltzer brewed in Austin, TX and bent on disrupting the seltzer category by focusing on high-quality ingredients and superior taste (note this recent coverage: "Step Aside, Whiteclaw!"). It was launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with sales beginning on June 15, 2020. It was founded by Austin M. Pittman T’21, Austin T. Pittman MHCDS‘13, and involves myself, Erica Choo T’21, as a product marketing manager.

Blue Norther Origins

In March 2019, Austin and his dad (Austin Sr.), were working on their ranch about an hour outside of Austin, TX. They wanted a refreshing beverage to cool off and celebrate small wins with. In the 100-degree Texas heat it was too hot to drink a heavy beer—they quickly had to put down the Shiner Bock. They opted for the now-famous Whiteclaw. While Whiteclaw prides itself on its low sugar and calorie content, they felt it just doesn’t hit the spot where taste is concerned, and found that some drinkers complain of a taste they can’t explain—artificial, chemical, strange. They were shocked to find that despite the estimated $3.2B in revenue for US hard seltzer in 2019, there was a clear consumer-product gap in the market for taste. Austin and Austin brought together their backgrounds in startup tech and health care leadership, respectively, and began their journey to launch the best-tasting hard seltzer in America, committed to quality, taste, and heritage.


Austin M. Pittman T’21 with his dad, Austin T. Pittman MCHDS’13

Recruiting During a Pandemic and My Personal Experience at Blue Norther

Prior to business school, I worked in market research and consulting for five years. Coming to Tuck, I knew I wanted to spend my summer doing something where I was a) entirely out of my comfort zone and b) working with a tangible, consumer facing product. The bulk of my recruiting was meant to take place in the spring, but when we were suddenly hit with the pandemic that is COVID-19, I started to think about how else I could gain those experiences this summer. Austin and I have pretty much known each other since day one of Tuck. Not only did we participate in the Three-Day Startup Workshop at the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship together, but we also happened to be next door neighbors. I learned about Blue very early on when Austin asked me to test and score the first formula of Agave Lime and Wild Blackberry (read: we tasted a lot of different seltzers that night). When Austin asked me to join the team this summer, I was pumped. Since coming on board I’ve had the opportunity to broker deals with online distributors, close sales with retail locations, collaborate with other brands, and ultimately flex creative muscles I never knew I had during this incredibly unique time.

Tuck Entrepreneurial Resources

While at Tuck, Austin has leveraged a great number of Tuck resources.

  • Center for Entrepreneurship  | Daniella Reichstetter has been a huge supporter since day one. Through her extensive experience as a CPG founder coupled with her boundless energy, Daniella guided Austin through blending a startup with his education at Tuck, ultimately allowing him to accomplish both.
  • Tuck Startup Incubator | Austin spent most of his first year in the incubator, which gave him the time and space to be laser-focused on Blue Norther while also earning course credit. His advisor, Jim Feuille, talked him through the fundraising process, advised him on how to think about the future of his company and building real value, and connected him to key individuals that helped him break into the Austin market.
  • Tuck Classmates: Joining me in the fall taste testing (obviously the hardest part of my job thus far) was fellow T’21, Chris Banks. In addition, Dennis Gallagher T’21 joined the Incubator team in the spring where he brought endless creativity, discipline, and models that the team still uses today. He was able to leverage his experience as a Brand Manager at Ocean Spray to further advance marketing and build up volume forecasting. Many other classmates offered advice, professional expertise, and connections, ultimately highlighting the unique Tuck Fabric.
  • Classes/Professors: Through both core courses and Professor Kevin Lane Keller’s Strategic Brand Management elective, Austin was able to lay the groundwork for his brand strategy during a pivotal time in its development.

Austin and Erica in front of stacked Blue Norther cans

Erica Choo T’21 with Austin Pittman T’21 at the Blue Norther warehouse in Austin, TX.

The Future of Blue Norther

At present, Blue Norther is offered in over 150 retail locations and several online platforms (e.g., HEB online, goPuff, Instacart). We have three full-time hires in the sales department and a graphic design intern. While currently only offered in the greater Austin, TX area, the team has exciting things in the pipeline from new flavors and partnerships to rapid expansion and growth in the next year. In the meantime, you can stay up to date with all things Blue on our website, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Cheers, and Drink Blue, ya’ll!

Erica Choo is a Tuck Class of 2021 MBA student. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in 2014, and worked in consulting in D.C. prior to moving back to New England for business school. She served as one of the social chairs in her first year, and is involved with the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship and the Leadership Fellows Program for the incoming T’22s.