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Is the Future of Craft Brewing in Alternative Beverages?

Between hop waters, ready-to-drink cocktails, and even hemp-infused drinks, craft brewers are adapting to the growing demand for alternative beverages. 

There’s no denying that craft beverages have undergone quite a metamorphosis over the past few years. Between pandemic upheavals, supply chain issues, and changing consumer preferences, craft brewers have had to be flexible. However, adapting to change is a big part of the craft beverage tradition.

For example, advancements in automation have led to increased consistency and efficiency. While many breweries closed during prohibition, others continued production by brewing related products like “near beer.” Ultimately, brewing has evolved over time in response to economic shifts, technology, resources, and consumer preferences.

And if you thought the evolution of brewing was at a standstill, think again. The craft landscape is ripe for change, and the growing variety of alternative beverages is a testament to that. From non-alcoholic hop waters, ready-to-drink cocktails, teas, and even beverages infused with THC/CBD, the future of craft brewing may lie in alternative beverages.

Learn what’s fueling this craft beverage shift and discover three innovators who are meeting this growing demand.

The Rise of Alternative Craft Beverages

There will always be consumers who want classic craft beverages, but it would be a mistake to ignore the rising demand for alternative beverages. A Veylinx study looking at US consumer demand for non-alcoholic canned cocktails found that demand is increasing for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic canned cocktails.

This year-over-year study revealed that “Demand for nonalcoholic canned cocktails rose by 4%, while demand for alcoholic canned cocktails grew by 20%.” Additionally, while the number of drinkers attempting to reduce their alcohol consumption fell 18% from 2022 to 2023, half of the participants said they would drink less alcohol if there were better alternatives.  

Functional beverages like kombucha and ready-to-drink teas meet consumer demand for health-conscious options that deliver multiple benefits. Chris Fontes, founder and CEO of High Spirits Beverages, explained how demand for THC and CBD-infused beverages consistently exceeds supply on a national scale as more states have embraced hemp and as more cannabis-curious consumers enter the market.

Between NA, alternative alcoholic, and cannabis and/or hemp-infused beverages, a world of opportunity exists for innovation. And some craft brewers have already taken the plunge.

Hoppy Mood | Founders Brewing Co | Instagram

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Founders Brewing Co

The Founders Brewing taproom, a former trucking depot modeled after a German beer hall, overlooks a classic brewhouse where co-founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers have been brewing beer since 1997. This award-winning brewery has dealt with its fair share of industry changes, but its willingness to innovate has kept it thriving. 

It’s also safe to say that they’ve been ahead of the game when it comes to alternative beverages. In 2020, they launched their first hard seltzer, and today they even offer a zero-calorie, zero-sugar non-alcoholic hop water called “Hoppy Mood.”

Founders Brewmaster, Jeremy Kosmicki, explained in an interview, “There’s people who want to drink less and people who don’t want to drink at all. There’s people that just, you know, they want to be refreshed, and I think this hop water is especially refreshing as far as that goes. People enjoy it. It’s different, but it’s familiar.”

This crisp, flavorful beverage is available in 6-pack cans at retailers across Michigan.

Chill State | Fair State Brewing Co op

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Fair State Brewing Co-op 

When their taproom opened in 2014, Fair State became the first cooperatively-owned brewery in Minnesota, and it even became the state’s first unionized microbrewery in 2021. Clearly, they’re not afraid to step into new territory, and that ethos extends to their beverage offerings (and we’re not even talking about their extra dank IPA, Big Doinks).

Their line of Hop Waters includes four sparkling beverages: Citra & Centennial, Citra & Galaxy, Citra & Mosaic, and their most recent addition is a caffeinated version called Hop Water Plus. Fair State isn’t stopping there, though. 

In a press release discussing the launch of their Chill State Collective (the first cannabis beverage distribution center in Minnesota), Fair State Brewing Cooperative Marketing Director Michelle Bastyr said that while THC drinks can be polarizing, people find their line of Chill State offerings refreshing. 

“Chill State is sparkling water infused with hemp-derived THC and broad-spectrum CBD. It's flavored with terpenes, which are hyper-potent plant-derived aroma compounds modeled after strains you might recognize. All the dank flavors and aromas with zero calories, sugar, or artificial sweeteners.”

Little Saints | Ready-to-drink Non-alcoholic cocktails

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Little Saints

During some pandemic-fueled soul searching, Little Saints founder Megan Klein set out to create non-alcoholic beverage options that held the same allure as her previously beloved cocktails. What she ended up creating was “a transformative, non-alcoholic drink that would taste like a cocktail, have uplifting functional benefits, and - most importantly of all - make everyone smile.”

Using her background as a former hydroponic farmer and plant-based foods innovator, as well as an interest in adaptogenic ingredients, Megan manufactured sugar-free beverages that were more cocktail than seltzer and that offered “a healthier phase of celebration and imbibing.”

These ready-to-drink non-alcoholic cocktails are made from a blend of potent organic reishi mushrooms and aromatic terpenes with zero sugar. Between the Negroni Spritz, Spicy Margarita, Paloma, and Ginger Mule, consumers can enjoy a consequence-free mood boost without missing out on flavor.

Unlock Alternative Craft Beverage Potential with Terpenes

Whether you’re brewing better-for-you kombuchas, mood-elevating seltzers, or hemp-infused sodas, alternative beverages still need to meet consumer expectations regarding flavor, effects, and variety. And all of the brands we mentioned above are already doing that with terpenes.

Our botanically-derived terpenes are free of calories and sugars, can promote mood-modulatory effects, and they’ll infuse your beverages with the flavors and aromas your consumers crave. Additionally, our water-soluble terpenes can easily integrate into your current workflow without any extra handling necessary.

For dank brewing solutions, check out our BrewGas Series. Want true-to-type optimized hop extracts? Get creative with our Hop Profiles. Do your consumers want mood-enhancing effects?  Our AI Terp Effects are just what you’re looking for. 

But why stop there? Contact us today, and let’s create an entirely new alternative beverage product with custom terpene formulations.

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