The 5 Best Hop Waters of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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The 5 Best Hop Waters of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

As the American craft-beer scene has exploded—with IPA leading the charge—hops have gone from just another obscure ingredient to the life of the party. These days, even your dentist probably knows the difference between Citra and Galaxy, and if you often enjoy an afternoon at the local beer garden, there’s a good chance that you too have been drawn in by the tropical, herbal, piney aroma of hops.

But IPA burnout is real, and as our nation’s long craft-beer fever cools, more and more beer enthusiasts (especially Zoomers) are turning to nonalcoholic beverages to give their livers a much-needed rest and to enjoy partying with a clearer state of mind. We plan to tackle the NA beer scene soon, but for now we’re here to talk about hop water.

If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone, but hop water is exactly what it sounds like. Mix carbonated water, aromatic hops, and (occasionally) added flavorings, and you have hop water—essentially LaCroix for beer fans. At its best, it’s crisp and refreshing, and it delivers a bit of what folks love about a good beer, without any of the alcohol-induced side effects.

So we gathered 31 hop waters (and teas) from 10 popular brands—including several notable craft breweries—and got really hydrated. After several brand-concealed tastings, side-by-side flavor comparisons, and some hoppy contemplation, we’re pretty sure we know which ones are worth seeking out.

I got that question from a lot of the people I told about our testing: Many had no idea that hop water even existed, and those who did wondered why I wouldn’t just buy an IPA or drink a regular fizzy water, if that’s what I was craving. What’s the appeal of this weirdo blend of the two?

Well, it’s pretty simple. I love the flavor of hops, but sometimes I want a way to consume them without the buzz and calories that beer brings. Though nonalcoholic beer exists, for a lot of people, myself included, it isn’t a great option. It still has a ton of calories, often more than actual beer, and even the best ones don’t taste as good as the real thing.

Hop water isn’t trying to be beer. It’s just sparkling water with a kiss of hops. It’s the fond, hazy memory of a lost love, whereas NA beer—for me, anyway—is like dating their disappointing lookalike.

But relegating hop water to “distant memory of an IPA” status is doing it a disservice. It’s also a great drink in its own right: bright, zesty, usually not very bitter, with a vibrant mix of floral, herbal, piney, and fruity flavors, depending on the hop varieties involved. It can be a surprisingly great mixer in cocktails, too.

I’ve been a beer lover since my first taste of Chimay Grande Réserve in college, and I’ve been obsessed with homebrewing since 2016. I’ll brew my 150th batch later this fall, and I currently have about 35 pounds of hops in 73 varieties in my garage freezer. I wrote Wirecutter’s guides to homebrewing kits and growlers, and I’ll write more if my editors let me.

In our research, we identified 10 brands of hop waters that are readily available in grocery stores across the US or through online ordering:

We tried several hop waters from every brand, separating the contenders into three groups: unflavored (just water and hops), flavored (those with fruity additions), and tea-based (a fight among the Hoplark HopTeas).

I asked my (extremely patient) wife to randomize and number the drinks in each group and then serve me flights for brand-concealed tasting. I took notes on each beverage’s appearance, aroma, and flavor for later analysis.

As with most consumables, there is no one best hop water for most people. Some people love hops and can’t get enough; others want only a little dab, if that. So we’ve done our best to select a few different kinds of hop waters for different palates. That said, we had a preference for hop water that actually, you know, showed off the hops.

This hop water stands out for its clear, well-defined hop flavors—experienced beer nerds might even be able to recognize the individual hop varieties.

Turns out, adding tea to hop water is a killer combo, and you can get it caffeinated or decaf.

There’s hop water, and then there’s Hoplark. That may sound like hyperbole, but for me, Hoplark’s hop waters and teas stood head and shoulders above the competition when it came to clear, defined expression of hop flavor and aroma.

In my brand-concealed tasting, I easily picked out the Citra and Sabro varieties of Hoplark’s hop water, which possessed the same aromatic qualities you’d get in a single-hopped IPA made with the same hops. That’s something I wasn’t able to do with any of the other contenders I tested. Whether that came down to the quality of the hops Hoplark uses, its brewing and packaging process, or the simplicity of its recipe (Hoplark uses just carbonated water and hops), I can’t say.

The HopTeas, though, are where the brand’s flavor-blending savvy really shines. All six regularly available varieties are excellent, though my clear favorite is the Citra and white tea, which has an impressively citrusy hop punch—without much bitterness—yet still allows the tea to fully express itself. If you’re not in the mood for caffeine, the hibiscus and chamomile variants are also bursting with flavor.

Hoplark’s core water and tea varieties are available in major grocery stores, but the company also offers a wide range of one-off and seasonal flavors, including wacky-sounding yet delicious stuff like The Root Beer One (containing Palisade hops, allspice, ginger, roasted chicory, and marshmallow root), as well as collaborations with popular craft breweries such as Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, New York, and Outer Range Brewing Co. in Colorado.

If you like hoppy beer but aren’t nerdy enough to have favorite hop varieties, this is the hop water for you. It’s crisp, clean, and hoppy but smooth enough to please even lager lovers.

Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Hop Splash is dry, refreshing, and hop-forward, yet it never becomes overwhelming. It’s reminiscent of beer in a way that makes it a perfect lunchtime drink when you want an IPA but don’t want to go back to work with a buzz on.

The aroma is all hops, though unlike with Hoplark’s offerings, even my experienced nose and palate were unable to pick out the exact varieties. (A glance at the can revealed that they’re Citra and Amarillo.) In my initial brand-concealed tasting, I enjoyed the very light bitterness and smooth hop flavor, which I noted was all citrus and pine. Retasting it to refresh my memory, I noticed more carbonic bite and a light tartness that encouraged another sip.

If you’re trying to avoid extraneous additives, note that Hop Splash also has the fewest ingredients of any hop water we tested besides Hoplark: just water, hops, and carbon dioxide.

This hop water skillfully offers satisfying fruity flavors with just enough hop profile to keep things light and lively.

If you are a frequent flavored-seltzer drinker, but you find yourself wishing that your LaCroix had a kiss of hops—who doesn’t?—Athletic Brewing Company’s DayPack is the drink for you.

Unlike most of the other hop waters we tested, DayPack uses hop oils (as opposed to whole or pellet hops), which provides a smoother flavor with an arguably cleaner, less vegetal hop expression; it’s also totally clear as a result. That hop flavor and aroma, while present, definitely plays second fiddle to the natural fruit flavors.

My favorite of the bunch is the mango flavor, which in my brand-concealed tasting came across more like coconut and pineapple—a skinny piña colada, if you will. I was also a fan of the strawberry-watermelon variety (mostly watermelon, with a bit of the green rind), while the lemon-lime and blood orange flavors were misses for my palate. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Ashwagandha and L-theanine give this hop water a complex, herbal undercurrent and a distinctly different flavor profile.

If you look for adaptogens and nootropics in your treats, Hop Wtr fits the bill. Its many fruit flavors are complemented by ashwagandha and L-theanine, which the company claims “help manage stress and cortisol levels” and “boost your brain’s function,” respectively.

I’ve made my own feelings about that kind of handwavey alt-medicine clear in my review of the similarly named MudWtr (unrelated), but putting that aside, to my palate Hop Wtr tasted better than a lot of its competitors—if in a health-food-store elixir kind of way.

The herbal undercurrent causes the fruit flavors to be more apparent on the nose than on the palate, though. My favorite of the bunch (the mango variety, once again) smelled strongly of mango, but the actual flavor, while still tasty, was more muddled.

As for the hops, Hop Wtr uses Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic, and Azacca. But while I could certainly smell them, they too got lost in the complex, herbal flavor profile once it hit my tongue. They play a supporting role in this beverage.

If you like the sound of Athletic’s DayPack but want less hops: Both Lagunitas’s Hoppy Refresher and Short’s Thirst Mutilator are tasty, fruit-flavored hop waters that scratch the itch, and both are slightly less hoppy on the palate.

If you want your hop water to give you a buzz: Bravus Brewing makes a perfectly tasty seltzer flavored with hops, lemon, and ginger, but it also goes above and beyond by offering versions with CBD and even Delta-8. (However, not all states allow shipping of these beverages.)

If you want to patronize local craft breweries: Many smaller breweries that we didn’t consider for this review (since they don’t distribute nationally) produce excellent hop waters. If you can get a drink that you like locally, and support a small business in the process, that’s always a great call.

Though it may be more effort than most people want to put in, making hop water at home is pretty simple. Opinions differ on how to get the best hop flavor and minimize bitterness, but here’s what has worked well for me.

I usually make a 2.5-gallon batch, but that’s a lot to commit to if you’re just starting out. Feel free to scale this recipe up or down as needed.

This is only a starting point. Through subsequent iterations, you can determine which hops, teas, and combinations of the two work best for your palate, and you can tune the amount of each ingredient to get the flavor profile you prefer.

This article was edited by Alexander Aciman and Marguerite Preston.

Ben Keough is the supervising editor for Wirecutter's working from home, powering, cameras, and hobbies and games coverage. He previously spent more than a decade writing about cameras, printers, and other office equipment for Wirecutter, Reviewed, USA Today, and Digital Camera HQ. After four years testing printers, he definitively confirmed that they all suck, but some suck less than others.

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The 5 Best Hop Waters of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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