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Siren taps into the hop water trend with first release

As the trend for hop water is gaining ground in the US, Berkshire-based Siren Craft Brew has revealed it is entering the category this week.

Speaking exclusively to the drinks business, Siren Craft Brew’s head of marketing Andy Nowlan explained that, for the uninitiated, hop water is “basically a sparkling water infused with hops. It’s very clean and refreshing, and expresses a very ‘pure’ hop character as well, as there isn’t interaction with any other ingredients, or biotransformation”.

The launch to release Siren’s own hop water, named ‘Hopwater’ has been an initiative that has been readied for some months behind the scenes now and, as Nowlan explained, it was “an idea that came after Siren head brewer Sean Knight and Siren founder Darron Anley went out to the hop harvest in September 2023 [to Yakima/Oregon]” and realised that “there was a buzz around hop waters from other brewers, but also the growers”.

Nowlan told db that the process to creating a hop water at Siren has been an exciting one, and certainly one that chimes well with craft adorers since it puts ingredients and aroma back at the centre of that is being produced.

He explained: “When we put so much focus on the hops, in terms of going out there to select the varieties we really want, it makes sense to be able to try these hops in their most natural state. Some of the aromas you get from hop water are like the smell you get from the hop bags, super fresh. If we see opportunities to innovate, try new things and stand out a bit, we’re never afraid to do that and take on the challenge.”

US success

Siren has admitted that seeing hop water’s success in the US has, in part, been instrumental to this next stage for the brewery. According to Nowlan: “It has definitely inspired us and the market is growing there for it. The enthusiasm from hop suppliers about diversifying the kinds of drinks that hops are used in is exciting”.

He added that there are also many ways the category can take people’s tastebuds depending upon which drinks producers align themselves with the trend and observed: “For example, seeing hops used in kombucha, mead, cider or hop water is really fun. I believe there’s a new product being developed by BarthHaas called Hopkick that is being developed just for this.”

For Siren, the target drinker for its own ‘Hopwater’ is also very broad and in this sense there is a chance it can act as a way for people to trade up to different beer styles, or for fans of certain styles to look at alternatives to soft drinks at times.

In essence, he highlighted how it presents craft breweries with an opportunity to reach a vast array of consumers that may not already even be beer drinkers at all. Crucially, giving people an option for a drink they can enjoy that is not calorific or even alcoholic, should they want to discernably expand their repertoire without compromise. The category also lends itself as a gateway back to beer too due to the hop varieties and names becoming more familiar over time to many consumers.

He explained: “As a brewery we’re naturally appealing to fans of pale ales and IPAs as a starting point, but the early indications are that the interest could be very broad. We’ve been running trials in our tap yard and collecting feedback.

“Many people are surprised at just how much they like it, and have mentioned how it’s a better alternative for them to things like Coca Cola or fruited sparkling water, and for example would love to see it in their supermarket meal deal as much as on our bar. The interest in low and no should definitely help, although it’s probably not a ‘competitor’ to low alcohol beer, rather just another very good option.”

UK trend?

Other UK brewers dabbling in the trend already too include Abbeydale and Northern Monk in particular who, according to Nowlan, “were quite early on it” and he added that “at BeerX I tried the recent example from Track which was excellent”.

The hops that Siren has chosen for each particular serve is something with which the brewery has been experimenting. As Nowlan explained: “The range of flavours and aromas in hops is so diverse that you can really take hop water in any direction you like” and said that so far Siren is trialling a few different types. But, he admitted: “Single hop examples alone are working really well, before you even think about the combinations.”

The two launched by Siren are Citra and Idaho 7 and, according to Nowlan, “Citra” which is “well known” has a “grassy, dank, hop bag” aroma and would typically suit an “IPA fan” while “Idaho 7” is an “incredible hop for tropical fruit flavours”.

In terms of cost effectiveness, this is also an area where it makes sense for the craft brewer, but also for the consumer to get something completely new and with a decent volume. Nowlan told db that Siren’s Sparkling Hopwater will retail at “£1.50 for a 440ml can, making it great value in comparison to other sparkling water products”.

As for the launch, Siren has trialled its Hopwater in its tap room, and at its 11th anniversary party where people were able to try it for free, with the option to donate to local homeless charity Launchpad in exchange. Nowlan revealed that the trials have been a great input for understanding how people would drink it and where it would fit into their lifestyle needs as they flex between drinking and not drinking.

For instance, he explained: “The feedback suggests that people would be keen to pick up cans from their local bottle shops, but would also enjoy it between rounds of beer, replacing tonic water in a gin and tonic, or with a meal, which all suggest there is good potential in the on-trade as well”.

Despite the positivity of the launch, at Siren the team is still realistic about the timing of the new products and how much uptake its Hopwater will create before the trend for many more hop waters takes place in Britain.

Longer game

This is, the brewery has disclosed, simply a longer game, but one that is “exciting”.

Nowlan explained: “As this is a brand new product with no existing category, the first step for us will be to get it in as many people’s hands as possible. This way we’ll be getting useful feedback while we continue to trial and improve what we’re doing. It’s very exciting to be able to work on something like this that’s brand new, lots of unknowns but tastes incredibly good”.

To begin with, Siren is offering the first 500 people who want to try its Hopwater a free two-pack of its first two cans. “All people need to do is use the code TRYHOPWATER on the webshop from 12pm Friday 12 April”.

Nowlan added: “At this time the Hopwater cans will also be available in four-packs and 12 packs” for people who want to try it and experiment.

Last year, Iron Hill Brewery in Delaware released its own hop water flavoured with a blend of Azacca, Jarrylo, Cascade, Chinook, Cashmere and El Dorado hops and, as the trend took hold in the US, the UK eyed it with interest. Take a look back further in the UK, and you can see that Cloudwater began testing out a range of sodas that use hops as the flavouring agent for its Good Call Soda range back in 2019, however the space has largely remained a little empty as Britain catches up with available brands of low and no alcohol variants.

Never resting on its laurels, Siren has also recently been on the expansion trail of late with the planned launch of its first town centre venue at Station Hill, Reading. Plus, in terms of brewing, back in January, Siren’s founder Anley hinted about the opportunity for alcohol-free drinks to pick up the mantle while people searched for better tasting alternatives. Anley explained how breweries across Britain could lean into the trend for no- and low-alcohol variants throughout 2024 with the increase in consumers looking for zero-alcohol drinks – a consumption pattern that hop water directly answers.

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