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Welcome to our HOP WTR review!
For too long, says the HOP WTR team, health-conscious beer lovers have been backed into a corner by a slim and very underwhelming non-alcoholic beer selection, which is why they decided to do something about it.
That “something” amounted to taking out the alcohol and carbs, swapping in calming ashwagandha and L-theanine, and setting up a catalog of hop-infused sparkling waters with flavors like Blood Orange, Lime, Classic, Peach, and Mango.
As nutritionally-minded reviewers with no intention of hiding our love of craft beer, we were eager to approach HOP WTR at Natural Health Products Expo West 2022, where we got the elevator pitch from HOP WTR Brand Manager Ryan Haggerty.
Between our enlightening interviews, sampling the products ourselves, and independently researching the company, we had what we needed for a complete review.
HOP WTR received an overall rating of A-, thanks to their innovation, ingredient quality and overall product quality, and more.
Pros and Cons
- Tasty and refreshing
- Zero calories
- Noticeable calming effect from nootropics
- High-quality ingredients
- Light on the hoppy flavor
- Not competitively priced
A Farewell to Beer Bellies: The HOP WTR Founding Story
HOP WTR was founded in 2020 by Nick Taranto and Jordan Bass, a once-beer-loving pair with an eclectic, yet complementary mix of experience in ecommerce and start-ups in the health and nutrition space.
Looking to make healthier choices as busy dads in their 30s, both men described their frustrations with watery, calorie-dense non-alcoholic (NA) beers as the driving force behind HOP WTR.
“So, they started tinkering and formulating,” Ryan Haggerty told us, and when they were pleased that they had thoroughly outclassed the competition both on flavor and nutritional value, the founders launched HOP WTR and sold out of the first five production runs of their hop-infused sparkling waters.
It was ecommerce only at the beginning, but as the trajectory continued to improve, HOP WTR branched out to thousands of retailers nationwide and several delivery services, including BevMo!, Kroger, goPuff, Wegmans Food Markets, H-E-B Grocery, and more.
As we learned when first making contact with the HOP WTR team at Natural Health Products Expo West 2022, in addition to crafting low-calorie, non-alcoholic drinks, HOP WTR uses functional ingredients like L-theanine and ashwagandha to mimic that gentle calming effect while providing some health-affirming benefits.
Our HOP WTR Review
Our review team uses the following criteria for researching and rating brands when completing a comprehensive review (complete with HOP WTR’s scores in this case):
- Quality (A-)
- Transparency (A)
- Website Experience (A-)
- Customer Service (A-)
- Value (B-)
- Brand Value (A-)
Accurately capturing this mix of subjective and objective information requires we make contact with a leader at the company, try their products ourselves, test their customer service channels and website, and research for everything else we need.
In the case of HOP WTR, we awarded the brand an overall grade of A-.
Let’s start it off with the all-important issue of quality.
HOP WTR teamed up with expert nutritionists and dieticians to create healthier, high-quality sparkling hop waters using responsibly sourced ingredients, earning them an A- for quality.
In addition to ingredient and end product quality, we make sure to target every back-end factor that keeps quality consistent, like clean and/or sustainable sourcing methods, packaging, testing and research support, and so on.
HOP WTR uses natural, non-GMO Italian blood oranges and Mexican limes to make sure these flavors stay “very true to the fruit,” as Ryan informed us.
The same philosophy applied to the blend of hops they use, which includes Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic, and Azacca hops.
As for their brewing know-how, the HOP WTR COO is from Stone Brewing and would make spider charts profiling the polyphenol and terpene content of each hoppy sparkling water the team was working on.
They also use stress-relieving, brain-boosting nootropics and adaptogens like ashwagandha and L-theanine in their brews.
The team conferred with nutritionists, dieticians, and other experts when developing their drinks, particularly as it related to the best use of the functional ingredients just mentioned.
The ingredient lists have little to hide, as we found only natural flavors, hops, the functional ingredients, vitamin C, and no harmful additives or added sugar at all.
This lack of syrupy or artificial-tasting ingredients was aptly reflected in our taste test, as the natural flavoring stood out, but the hops didn’t really come across as strongly as we’d hoped.
Finally, the packaging was of high quality, and did not impede our use of the product, while everything we wanted to know was featured on the label (ingredients, a blurb about the company, flavor profile/hops info, and more).
Here’s a closer look at the HOP WTR catalog:
HOP WTR Classic
If you’ve tried just about every fruit-flavored water, Hop Wtr Classic is (doubly) refreshing in that the hops get to take center stage alone.
Our team found this to be the “hoppiest” tasting drink, so for beer fans new to Hop Wtr, we recommend Classic for your first stop.
It’s got zero calories, zero sugar, and added nootropics.
HOP WTR makes it easy for everyday consumers and industry insiders like ourselves to learn all the basics about their production process, company background, quality standards, and more.
Both for the customer convenience element and in support of honest and ethical business practices, we treat transparency as a litmus test for how a brand is really conducting themselves.
The burden is on each reviewed brand to provide customers and our team with easily accessible breakdowns of, at a minimum, their ingredients, processes (sourcing, brewing in this case, etc.), and at least a framework of the brand’s story and leadership.
From the consumer’s perspective, the What’s Inside page on the HOP WTR site provides a brief but informative overview of the production process, and it’s equally as easy to look up ingredient lists.
HOP WTR also adds a personal touch with a note from their founders on their brand story page, along with a snippet describing the brand and their products, but a brief history of the brand and/or features of other leaders would have rounded it out more completely.
As for their level of transparency with our team, both at Expo West and in our subsequent calls, Ryan was very forthcoming with all the information we wanted to know, including more details on the production process, best-selling products (Blood Orange for the win), and more.
All of our poking and prodding amounted to just one or two small gripes when it comes to how transparent HOP WTR is with their customers about the important stuff, so they’ve earned an A in transparency.
Everything on the well-designed HOP WTR site works as it should on PC and mobile devices, including a smooth ecommerce experience, but we’d like to see a fuller knowledge base as it relates to beginner-friendly info on nootropics and adaptogens.
This is when we don our “everyday online shopper” hats and cruise the reviewed brand’s website to assess a few key elements important to the user experience:
- The fluidity and functionality of the shopping experience on all devices
- The amount of beginner-friendly explainer content we can easily access
- A clean and non-distracting design (pass/fail factor, no glamor needed)
Thanks in part to their smaller product catalog, the HOP WTR online shop is very easy to navigate.
Simply cruise through a few rows of neatly designed entries (product image, a few words on the flavor profile, and “buy now” button), pick your product, and click through.
Once on the product page, you’ll see a slightly longer description, a breakdown on ashwagandha and L-theanine, nutrition facts, and reviews.
Everything works as it should in the vein of browsing and purchasing; there are no clunky features or overbearing pop-ups to take you out of the experience.
The site works just as well on mobile devices, and the design is simplistic, aesthetically pleasing, and non-distracting.
The beginner-friendly content is both succinctly written and easy to find, but we would like to see a more thorough breakdown of ashwagandha and L-theanine, possibly including research support.
Site copy is on the thin side in general, which isn’t a massive red flag when you’re selling hop-infused sparkling water, but a fuller knowledge base can easily be established without breaking the pleasantly simplistic design.
All these points considered, HOP WTR earns an A- for website experience.
Despite having only one point of contact, HOP WTR’s customer service experience is solid, offering a generous return policy with personal touches.
We credit brands for the variety and responsiveness of available customer support channels, also leaving some room for how flexible and accommodating their shipping and return policies are.
HOP WTR is on the leaner side when it comes to available services, offering email support only (no phone number posted).
Whether it’s due to damage in the shipping process or a product not meeting your expectations, HOP WTR maintains a generous return policy, allowing customers the ability to return products even after the 30-day window (after purchasing) has passed.
Email a picture and a short explanation to [email protected], and they’ll work with you to resolve the issue, often throwing in personal touches like handwritten notes and/or a bit of swag.
Shipping options and respective time windows are not explicitly posted on the site, as HOP WTR says they will be determined at checkout, but there is a banner featured in the site header that reads “free shipping on orders $50+.”
All the above considered, it’s an A- for customer service.
Crediting HOP WTR for catering to a chronically neglected audience, we can see how the price may be more than worth it for a select group. For more casually interested consumers, however, they’ve edged themselves out of a competitive price range.
We normally stray from apples-to-apples comparisons in the value department because no two “apples” are ever the same, which is especially true of a hop-infused sparkling water product fortified with functional ingredients.
In other words, the uniqueness of HOP WTR’s products brings about two important implications in the price department: 1) Comparing to other brands is even less useful, and 2) A small-to-medium premium is justified for creating their own niche.
Non-subscribers are paying a little over $3 a can ($36.99/12-pk) for HOP WTR, where subscribers pay $2.62 a can ($31.44/12-pk).
If we were closer to $2 a can, this point wouldn’t be needed, but the problem at this price point is that the drink doesn’t outdo any of its three competitor types (sparkling water, beer, and adaptogen/nootropic supplements) to the point where it could fully replace them.
The fact that it provides all three of these elements is absolutely worth a premium for a select audience to whom this makes sense, but for $2.60-$3, you could easily have a sparkling water or a can of beer and a serving of a more nutrient-dense nootropic supplement.
It’s not exorbitant by any means, but we’re not filing the price under “competitive” either, landing HOP WTR at a B-.
HOP WTR On Amazon
In addition to purchasing HOP WTR products directly from the company website, you can also find many of their individual beverages (in 12-packs) and variety packs at Amazon, including:
- Blood Orange
- Mixed Packs (sparkling waters, variety pack)
Most HOP WTR products on Amazon are eligible for prime membership, and the prices do not vary from those posted on the brand website.
The HOP WTR Subscription Program: Worth It?
So long as you intend to consume the product on a regular basis, there is only one factor we assess when answering this question: cancellation policy flexibility.
HOP WTR’s subscription program, which saves you 15% on products you have delivered every 15, 30, 45, or 60 days, is worth it because, if you need to cancel for whatever reason, you can do so at any time without fees or any other hassle.
There are no mandatory minimums, and you can order whichever product(s) you want, including both the standard 12-packs and the month’s supply (36 cans).
We’ve seen a few subscription programs provide more savings, but plenty that have provided a 10% or even a paltry 5% discount, so the 15% is nothing to scoff at.
Overall, this is a solid subscription program that shows no signs of trying to rope you into unwanted purchases or obligations.
Beyond the creative fusion of hops and seltzer water – which earns some credit by itself – we acknowledge the deeper purpose of targeting a mistreated audience with a wellness-boosting, zero-calorie product. This, along with a solid showing on the charity front, earns HOP WTR a solid score for brand value.
Finally, this is where we credit brands for how they have impacted their industries (and any outside communities with charity/philanthropy work), which understandably encompasses a lot of factors, including, but not limited to:
- Product innovation
- Community/industry involvement
- Charity and philanthropy
- Creating new manufacturing/sourcing standards
HOP WTR is definitely not losing out on product innovation credit, as the use of adaptogens and nootropics to healthfully mimic the somewhat sedative effect of beer or wine is a value-added idea that drew us to the brand in the first place.
By using these functional ingredients, expanding their catalog with new flavors, and staying away from artificial flavors and calories, HOP WTR is nudging the long-stagnant NA beer space into a more positive and engaging place.
Their philosophy on the power of “no,” as detailed in their Get Up To No Good page, is a cathartic read for the post-millennial online shopper constantly having “yes” coaxed out of them, while also serving as encouragement for anyone struggling to find a replacement for alcoholic drinks.
Finally, HOP WTR has supported various initiatives, including donating proceeds to the American Cancer Society during “dry July,” and “sober October,” which they referred to as “hallmark months for the sober-curious movement.”
For their efforts in shifting the consumer mentality towards better options and helping people in need, we give HOP WTR an A- for brand value.
Our Experience With HOP WTR
Our products arrived in the same cardboard container you see pictured above, complete with every flavor except Peach.
Both the cans and the boxes they came in were durably made and attractively labeled, featuring a minimalistic, but complete breakdown of the ingredients and a short blurb (on the box) about the “mood-boosting ingredients” therein.
Starting with flavor only—we will get to the nootropic benefits next—the jury was split somewhat amongst our review team members.
The flavors themselves were enjoyable in every case (especially the blood orange), but we were expecting a significantly “hoppier” beverage—our taste buds barely registered them with the exception of the classic variety, which was relatively hoppier in the absence of citrus.
The nootropic benefits were significantly more noticeable, producing a calming effect that very accurately mimicked having one or two beers in the evening.
We didn’t feel intoxicated or heavily sedated, but the measured sense of calm that sustained for the better part of two hours made these hop-infused sparkling waters an excellent choice for dinner time.
If you’re a seasoned IPA and/or craft beer drinker, it’s important to temper your expectations, as that “zing” of bitter hops you might be anticipating is all but replaced by the tingle of bubbles and natural citrus alone.
However, if you’re more of a casual light beer drinker and/or a sparkling water drinker looking to make a change without the calories or alcohol, HOP WTR should be an excellent fit.
FAQs About HOP WTR
Does HOP WTR get you buzzed?
Not in the conventional sense. The adaptogens and nootropics in HOP WTR may produce calming, euphoric, or motivating effects, depending on the person, but every HOP WTR beverage is non-intoxicating.
Does HOP WTR taste like beer?
HOP WTR Classic tastes like a mildly hoppy beer, and the other flavors lean more towards fruity seltzers with a dash of hops.
Is HOP WTR good for you?
In addition to nootropics and adaptogens, a can of HOP WTR provides more than 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement. While HOP WTR is not the most nutritionally dense drink out there, it is significantly healthier than beer.
Does HOP WTR have caffeine?
No, HOP WTR does not contain any caffeine.
How does HOP WTR make you feel?
Because adaptogens and nootropics can produce different effects based on the consumer’s neurochemical makeup, diet/sleep/exercise status, and more, HOP WTR may make you feel calm, happy, motivated, or a combination.
Who owns HOP WTR?
Nick Taranto and Jordan Bass are co-founders and owners of HOP WTR.
Is HOP WTR Non-Alcoholic?
Yes, all HOP WTR beverages are non-alcoholic.
Where to buy HOP WTR?
HOP WTR is available nationwide at HOPWTR.com, goPuff, Amazon, and Thrive Market. HOP WTR can also be found at Erewhon, BevMo!, Wegmans, Big Y and select Total Wine & More, Ralphs, Kroger, HEB, and HyVee locations. They continue to add new retailers weekly, including Gelson’s, Mother’s Markets, Jungle Jim’s, Bottle Kings, and other locations. Use their store locator to find a retailer that carries HOP WTR in your area.
HOP WTR is an innovative, ethically conscious, and quality-focused brand that has opened up new possibilities for traditionally underserved (get it?) demographics of people looking to enjoy the experience of beer without the drawbacks.
As the sparkling water market quickly approaches shoulder-to-shoulder status, HOP WTR differentiates itself by sourcing high-quality nootropics that help you relax without affecting your faculties.
We recommend HOP WTR to any health-conscious person looking to transcend the same old flavored seltzer.