Cloudwater Brewery has been bringing innovation to the beer industry since opening their brewery in Manchester in 2015. Until recently, every brew was a one-off recipe, allowing them to experiment with the ingredients; as a result, every release was a limited edition, quickly ranking their beer among the most sought after around the country.
This ethos of experimentation has now expanded beyond beer. While other breweries around the country are scrambling to release low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers to catch up with ever-increasing demand, these guys have decided to create their own category with Cloudwater Soda, a non-alcoholic, low-calorie drink with a flavour driven by hops. Mic drop.
The No & Low category is growing exponentially in the UK with the emergence of low-alcohol focused breweries such as Big Drop and Small Beer, while retailers such as Asda are trialling a “No & Low Zone” across 40 of their stores nationwide. Many restaurants have thrown their virgin cocktails out with the plastic straws and have added No & Low to their drinks menu, with Caravan in London going so far as to create infusions inhouse.
Cloudwater Soda has shown up late to the game, but instead of trying to catch up, they’ve decided to change the rules. Alcoholfree beer is only good for the times when drinking a beer would be acceptable. Try cracking open a can of 0% ABV beer at your desk or on the Victoria Line at 8am and let us know how you get on. But these hop-infused sodas can now occupy a time of day that’s previously been held by soft drinks, tea and coffee. With no added sugar they have sidestepped the Sugar Tax assault course that the soft drink industry has been trying to battle through and with less than 100 calories per can they are the perfect swap for soft drinks too.
Until now, hops have been almost exclusive to the beer industry; in fact, only breweries like Cloudwater (who have worked their way into a leading position) get to visit Yakima and hand select the pick of the bunch. As with other commodities, the value of hops is vulnerable to market fluctuations and desirable to speculative traders – giving Cloudwater an advantage over soft drink producers wanting to get into the hop game. With hops now released from the wilds of the beer category, people who have never developed a taste for beer or who choose not to drink alcohol, for whatever reason, can now explore these flavours for the first time and in a new way.
Cloudwater Soda’s firstborn includes two variants, a Mango & Citra soda and a Green Tea & Simcoe soda. Citra hops dominated the hyped pale ales before Mosaic became the new kid on the block and it’s a popular hop to start with – the perfect partner to the mango and cumin in this recipe. Alongside a green tea with simcoe, this is a strong starting line-up.
Founder Paul Jones isn’t content with Cloudwater becoming the non-alcoholic offering in your local pub: he has his sights set on restaurants also. “We take our inspiration from food, cocktails, beer or the whole ingredients themselves,” he explains. “We can be so much more agile when we are flavour-driven, rather than focussing on fitting a particular category.”