The curious case of the alcohol-free, hop-infused sparkling water.
Northern Monk is a brewery that is no stranger to the novelty beer – some eccentric, some downright ludicrous – that sit alongside their more serious and impressive regular selection. Holy Hop Water might be the most novel, simply because it isn’t beer at all.
Now, alcohol-free beer is commonplace these days, so much so that there is no point in even discussing the pros and cons of such a concept. But Holy Hop Water is a more interesting experiment altogether. This is sparkling water embued with Citra hops to create something that tastes vaguely like beer but isn’t. I say ‘vaguely’ because although there is something of the beer about this, it doesn’t quite have the taste. It’s perhaps like you might find if you poured sparkling water into a glass that had the dregs of a previous pint still in there – but maybe not even that strong. The flavour is strong enough to notice but subtle enough that you could arguably give this to someone who didn’t know better and they would never detect a beer taste. It probably depends on how attuned your tastebuds are.
So what is this for? Who is it aimed at? I guess people who want an alcohol-free solution that is healthier or more minimalist than most zero per cent beers – they, after all, still mimic the taste of regular beer. This stuff, though, is as pure as pure can be – no sugar, no sweetener, no caffeine and no calories. It is, basically water – but water flavoured with hops rather than any of the flavourings you might find in other sparkling waters. An adult variation of flavoured water maybe, or a healthier option for the person who likes the taste of hops and the hint of beer. The can bigs up the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of hops and so maybe this is being pitched, as odd as it seems, as a health drink of sorts. It’s decidedly odd because I genuinely can’t quite work out who will be buying this rather than alcohol-free beer, but people obviously are. I’m not sure where they might be buying it from, of course – I haven’t seen evidence of this in pub fridges and I wonder how many people even know it exists to begin with.
I didn’t dislike it by any means. Whether I would pay £1.50 a can is another question again – but maybe I would from time to time. Perhaps if I had a bad stomach or just wanted something at the end of the evening to counteract the effects of beer, this might be worth giving a go (though I’m always suspicious of health claims on any drink). Anyway, it’s an odd thing and I’m glad to have tried it.
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