How CraftHaus Dialed in its Hop Water

Creating a beer alternative for your brand is a great way to keep non-drinkers in your taproom, which could lead to another beer sale for someone who is with them. It’s also a great thing to have even if you are a beer drinker and just need a break. With campaigns like Sober October and Dry January, a Hop Water called HopSwell is a substitute for CraftHaus, explained Head Brewer Cameron Fisher.

“My wife doesn’t want to drink beer all the time, and neither do I,” he said. “In the middle of the day at work, it gives you the same feel of having a beer in your hand. It’s a nice option for a shifty or mid-shift drink. It’s a great option to get the hop flavor. It’s refreshing.

“It’s hot in the brewery, so it’s just a nice product to have on hand.”

A two-year project that encounters some trial and error, Fisher shared with Brewer recently how HopSwell landed to the point that it’s now available in cans in the taproom for the Las Vegas brewery.

Getting a good balance of hop flavor along with clarity took some effort, he said. Hop extracts weren’t the solution, he noted.

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“We tried that. It didn’t work quite like we planned at all. It didn’t come out nearly as clean tasting as we wanted,” he said. “It turns out just regular old pellet hops seem to be the way to go.” 

Some tips Fisher shared on crating hop water include:

  • Air it Out: “We’re just adding hops there, we don’t want the flavor to degrade,” Fisher said. “There’s oxygen in the water so you have to boil the water to deaerate it, just like you would for wort. 
  • Go Hot: Fisher will send the hop water across to the fermenter hot rather than cooling it down. “It’s going to then sanitize any of the surfaces in there,” he said. “We’ve already sanitized it anyway, but it’s just extra security.” They also blast CO2 where they’d normally be putting oxygen in the wort. “We’re scrubbing out more of the oxygen from that water,” he said. 
  • Quick Turn: They will leave the hop water in there for a couple of days to chill and carbonate. “We can we can brew it on a Friday and package it on a Monday,” he said. “It’s pretty easy for us to turn it around quickly.” 
  • Check pH: “People should consider if they’re going to try this, is you want to have it food safe. You need to lower the pH of that as well,” Fisher pointed out. “A lot wouldn’t think that, but we do have to add phosphoric or lactic acid to bring our pH down to a food-safe level.”

Fisher said they thought a bit about what the hop flavor should be and chose El Dorado for HopSwell. There have been ideas of adding herbs to future brands or other hops, but so far, this has been the one style they have sold since launching in January of 2023.

“We thought it just be more refreshing than a lot of other stuff that’s gonna be a little more piney or resinous, or just be too strong of a flavor,” Fisher said. “I don’t want to put Citra in there and somebody’s gonna think it smells like dirty socks.

HopSwell is 100% packaged in cans and Fisher said because there’s no alcohol, they wanted it to be in the safest food-safe format. 

“We have sent out for testing and everything’s clean,” he said. “We’re very happy with how it turned out.”

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