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The Difference Between Hop Water and NA Beer

Learn how the better-for-you consumer demand allows both NA beer and hop water beverages to thrive.

Whether opting for sugar-free beverages or caffeine-free sports drinks, consumers have made their demand for better-for-you beverages loud and clear. Alcohol consumption, in particular, has been impacted by these changing consumer preferences.

With movements like Sober Curious and Dry January, many consumers are simply drinking less alcohol. Julie Galbraith, chief marketing officer at Deschutes Brewery, explained to Beverage Insider, “For many, it’s not about completely giving up alcohol but rather about exploring alternative options, like non-alcoholic beer, that align with their health goals. In fact, health and wellness are identified as the primary drivers of non-alcoholic beverage trends.”

While it’s no surprise that non-alcoholic beer is benefiting from these trends, a newcomer to the NA beverage scene is also on the rise: hop water. Yes, they’re both non-alcoholic, they share hop flavors, and there’s some consumer overlap. Their differences, however, indicate there’s more than enough room for both categories to thrive.

Read on and learn about the important differences between these two beverage categories and what their popularity means for the future of NA beverages.

Abstrax Hops Omni Hop Profiles Cashmere

The Recent Rise of Non-Alcoholic Beer

You know them, you may not have always loved them, but there’s no denying that they’re having a comeback. Why? NA Beers are finally cool and a lot tastier than early versions. That might sound harsh, but NA beers have had to fight through a lot to get the consumer demand they have today. 

In the 1920s, prohibition led many brewers to craft non-alcoholic “near beer” to stay in business. Sadly, consumers viewed it as a consolation prize in comparison to the beer that had been banned, and they dropped it almost overnight once alcohol was legal again. NA beers did stick around for consumers who couldn’t drink alcohol, and while they had a notable revival in the 1970s, they were often described as lacking in flavor.

It wasn’t until 2018 that Athletic Brewing Company turned the tide for non-alcoholic beers with their carefully perfected recipes, processes, and unique marketing strategies. Images of chiseled athletes alongside chef collaborations helped consumers see that NA beers not only tasted good but were a good fit for health-minded individuals.

Movements like Mindful Drinking and Sober October added fuel to this early demand. Today, that demand is higher than ever. A 2023 US Non-Alcoholic Beer Report found that the “number of non-alcoholic beer drinkers in the US has increased [by] more than 8x since 2020.” 

There’s a lot to celebrate with the NA beer glow-up. Making good non-alcoholic beers is tricky, so we have to commend the brewers who have experimented with various ingredients and practices to create something that really does taste good. Plus, there’s a lot to be said for advancements in optimized hop extracts and beverage solutions

But if NA beers are meeting the better-for-you demand, what’s the deal with hop water?

Hop Water Is NOT The Same As NA Beer 

Anyone who thinks hop water is the same as non-alcoholic beer is not only incorrect, but they’re missing the point. 

Hop waters are non-alcoholic seltzers flavored with hops. Some key differences between them and NA beer include having zero calories, zero carbs, zero sugar, and even being gluten-free. While a small amount of yeast is sometimes added to promote biotransformation in any dry hopping, no actual grains are used in the process. That means the alcohol content always stays at zero percent.

BREWING CONSIDERATIONS 

Depending on the brewing method used, NA beers can require a significant amount of water and electricity to remove alcohol. 

The process of making hop water, however, requires less time, less equipment, and fewer resources. While brewing NA beers can take weeks, hop water can be made in a few days. It involves boiling water, lowering the temperature, adding hops (whole hops, pellets, or extracts), chilling, adding carbonation, and then a bit of citric acid to make it shelf-stable. 


For consumers, compared to the 80-100 calories and traces of gluten from the grains used in NA beer, hop water has the better-for-you advantage. Some hop water brands are taking this a step further, though.

HOP WTR co-founder Jordan Bass told Beverage Industry that the hop plant has natural calming benefits. He also explained how his line of hop waters “combines the benefits of hops with mood-boosting, stress-busting adaptogens and nootropics and infuses all of these good-for-you ingredients in crisp sparkling water that not only tastes good, but makes you feel good, too.”

While “healthy” CPGs may have only appealed to a small number of consumers in the past, hop water is clearly resonating with people today. Yahoo Finance even notes that while national sales pulled in just $5.5 million in 2022, “those sales represent a 143% increase from 2020 when just three major brands (including Lagunitas) accounted for 50,000 cases sold in retail chains. In 2022, NielsenIQ listed hop water as the fifth largest-growing craft beverage style in the country.”

Pitting hop water and non-alcoholic beer against each other might seem natural because of their shared features, but there’s another important difference to consider.

Abstrax Hops  El Dorado Omni Hop Profiles

Hop Water and NA Beer Categories Are Evolving

While consumers will naturally compare NA beers to the alcoholic beverages they’re mimicking, hop waters don’t necessarily have an alcoholic version to be compared to. Sure, hops may be the flavor thread that ties them together, but we’re seeing more and more hop waters infused with innovative flavors that aren’t typical of NA beers. 

A New York Times article recently discussed ten popular brands of hop water and found flavor combinations included white tea and Citra, hibiscus and chamomile, Lemondrop and Simcoe, blood orange, black cherry, ginger limeade, and the list goes on. Some of these brands market better-for-you features like adaptogenic ingredients, while others simply promote their good flavors. 

We’re even seeing a unique category blend between hop water and beverages containing cannabis and hemp. Chill State Collective, for example, has a line of sparkling waters infused with hemp-derived THC and broad-spectrum CBD. While some of their beverages are infused with a combination of hops and cannabis-inspired terpenes, others skip the hops altogether. 

Ultimately, while hop water may have started as a wellness one-up on NA beers, it has slowly started to transform into its own unique beverage category: part non-alcoholic beverage, part functional beverage, and part soft drink. Plus, let’s not forget that NA beers only recently gained the popularity they have today. One thing is for sure: we’re excited to see how these categories continue to evolve.

Abstrax Hops Centennial Omni Hop Profiles

Brewing Solutions for Tomorrow’s Hop Waters and NA Beers

Today, in the same way that automation technology allowed brewers to forego labor-intensive practices, brewing advancements are giving craft brewers access to flavor innovations that haven’t been possible until now.

TTB-approved Omni Hop Profiles are the ideal beverage solution for hop water and NA beer. These profiles have a 100% utilization rate, zero yield loss, and they contain no acids or undesirable compounds that might impact the final flavor.

The best part? Since Omni is formulated from sustainable botanical sources that aren’t subject to seasonal flavor drift, you can lock in your favorite hop flavor and aroma year after year. That means brewing with consistent, scalable hop flavor and aroma at a more affordable price.

NA beers and hop waters are just getting started, and we can’t wait to see how they evolve in the years to come. Contact us and let’s get started infusing your beverages with in-demand flavors and aromas today.

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