Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. recently released a refreshing, hop-forward beverage – but it’s not a beer. Known for its German-inspired brews, the St. Louis brewery’s three varieties of sparkling hop water are naturally alcohol- and calorie-free. True to its name, the beverage is infused with real hops, giving it floral notes and piney flavor, but unlike beer, it doesn’t use any grain, yeast or sugar.
The hop water is a first for the company, marking Urban Chestnut’s foray into the production of nonalcoholic craft beverages. It first came about as a way to provide a nonalcoholic option for attendees of the 2018 LouFest Music Festival. When the festival was cancelled, the brewery was left with kegs of hop water, which were then put on tap at its beer hall in The Grove neighborhood. It was a hit, and Urban Chestnut realized it was onto something; this past fall, it released its first round of canned hop water at its tasting rooms. This year, the brewery plans to expand distribution of the product – making it easier than ever to reach for a refreshing brew without the booze.
How would you describe the flavor profile of the hop water? It turned out really nice. It’s something different; it’s not bitter. We definitely didn’t want it to capture the bitterness of the hops, but more the aromatics and the flavor [of the hops].
How is the hop water made? It’s a slightly less complicated process than making beer. We take filtered water (the same water we use for our brews) and infuse it with Citra hops and then carbonate it and package it. We use the same base for all three of the hop waters; we have a grapefruit-infused hop water, a ginger-infused hop water [and a soon-to-be-released CBD-infused hop water], so we add those essences in after.
Tell us about the hops you use. We use Citra hops because, as the name implies, they definitely have more of the citrus fruit flavor and aroma, so they were basically bred to display and express those specific aromas and flavors. You definitely get that in the hop water as well. There are different compounds in hops in general; we were specifically looking for the aromatic, citrusy compounds and not the bittering substances.
The hop water was one of the surveys at The U.R.B., Urban Chestnut’s research pilot brewery. What was that R&D process like? Typically we look at what flavors are preferred – lemon, lime or grapefruit, for example – and also the impact – how much grapefruit, for example, or how much hop flavor people prefer. [We] come up with two to three options for people to judge and then pick their preferred version. It’s first figuring out exactly what flavor options people want and then seeing what amount of aroma and flavor they prefer in that regard.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., urbanchestnut.com