Love it or hate it, no one can deny the role of hoppy, sometimes pungent, IPA-style beers that helped revive the American craft beer scene.
Though some drinkers are put off by the herbaceous aromas and bitter flavors, others embrace them, which inspired some breweries to strive to develop the most bitter brews they could, as measured by International Bitterness Unit (IBUs).
The main “culprit” behind the bitter profiles of IPAs? Hops, the flowers from the hop plant, which are mainly used to flavor and preserve beers.
For those who can’t get enough of hops, let me introduce you to hop water, the new-ish kid on the block. We first came across hop water as we were researching nonalcoholic beer and were delightfully surprised by the variety of flavors it brings.
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What Is Hop Water?
Hop water is essentially carbonated water with hops added later in the process, which brewers would refer to as “dry hopping.” The variety of the hops added will determine the aroma and flavor of the hop water, which makes the hop water category interesting and expansive.
It’s also one of the fastest-growing segments of the beverage market, experiencing astronomical growth (over 70% unit sale increase compared to a year ago) in recent years, according to consumer data firm NIQ.
What Does Hop Water Taste Like?
In general, hop water is crisp, refreshing, and subtly juicy—but some standouts are more complex and nuanced than the others. We liked the Lagunitas hop water (called Hoppy Refresher) which is infused with an assortment of Citra, Centennial, and Equinox (Ekuanot) hops, with the latter two exhibiting grapefruit, sage, and eucalyptus notes.
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How Is Hop Water Made?
Different from artificially flavored seltzer, hop water is typically infused with real hops. Some popular varieties include Citra, Mosaic, and Cascade, which give beers the fruity, juicy flavors commonly associated with NEIPA, also known as New England IPA.
Though hops generally carry floral, citrus, and tropical fruit notes, they differ vastly from one another when used to brew beer. Sometimes a hop water calls for two or three types of hops, such as the Sierra Nevada Hop Splash, which incorporates both Citra and Amarillo hops, the latter adding more earthy and ginger-like spicy touches to the fizzy water.
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What’s the Difference Between Hop Water and Nonalcoholic Beer?
Hop water is seltzer infused with hops, whereas nonalcoholic beer is made from fermentation, during which alcohol is produced but is later removed. Though hop water is often marketed side-by-side with nonalcoholic beer, this beverage doesn’t taste like beer, nor does it taste like your average seltzer. It has some piney, hoppy flavors but its body is crisp and clean, like a seltzer.
Nationally recognizable brands, such as Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas, have already had success launching wildly popular hop water products, and smaller breweries are following suit, such as Western Massachusetts-based Tree House Brewing Company, which debuted its own hop water line not long ago.
For those who have developed a “hop craving” over the years of drinking the ever-diversifying styles of IPAs, you might appreciate a slight touch of bitter and piney flavors in a light and refreshing nonalcoholic form.