You’re going to hear about it, so you might as well know what it is
If you’re one of those beer lovers that gets lathered by the mere mention of hard seltzer, you should move along. I don’t do it often and I don’t do it because I like it, but I talk about hard seltzer because it is a huge, emerging trend in the beverage alcohol industry, one that touches the brewing industry in multiple ways. Hard seltzer sales hit $4.1 billion in 2020, enjoying 160 percent growth over the year. Beyond noteworthy.
Well-informed beer nerds and imbibers of all sorts should know about ranch water. You’re going to hear about it from someone, so it might as well be me.
As Kate Bernot said in her article on Good Beer Hunting, “…there’s a Wild West-style brawl taking place as businesses try to solidify themselves as synonymous with a beverage heretofore unknown to most of the country.”
What is Ranch Water?
The shortest answer? It’s a buzzword. Though ranch water is a real thing, and a specific thing, the term is being co-opted for its trendiness. Allow me to explain.
Ranch water is a cocktail. It’s a tequila highball drink made with lime, tequila, and Topo Chico, a particular brand of sparkling mineral water from Mexico. Ranch water purists say that the use of Topo Chico is non-negotiable.
Topo Chico is drawn from one particular source: subterranean springs around the Cerro del Silla mountains near Monterrey, Mexico. Its unique mineral character is attributed to the limestone-rich mountains. Today, Topo Chico is a Coca-Cola brand. I am sure that Coca-Cola is happy that this cocktail has gained popularity in recent years.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch water…
According to Texas legend, the cocktail was invented, or devised, by a West Texas rancher several decades ago, but the basic formula (tequila, lime, Topo Chico) more likely came across the border with Mexican workers and immigrants. The cocktail is nothing new in Texas, especially in West Texas.
Why are we talking about it?
Recently, it was announced that Diageo acquired Texas-based Far West Spirits LLC, producers of Lone River Ranch Water hard seltzer. Diageo is an enormous, international alcohol company whose portfolio includes brands like Ketel One, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray, and… wait for it… Guinness. Diageo acquiring Lone River is akin to AB-InBev buying a craft brewery. Ranch water is the reason Diageo made this acquisition.
Diageo’s news came on the heels of other ranch water news. A couple weeks ago, Heineken N.V. announced that it was releasing Dos Equis Ranch Water Hard Seltzer. FYI, Heineken is not just that skunky Dutch beer in green bottles; rather, it is a huge, international beer company that owns over 165 breweries in more than 70 countries. Dos Equis is a Heineken brand. More specifically, Heineken owns FEMSA Cerveza, the brewing company that makes Dos Equis, but I digress.
Is it really ranch water?
There are other ranch water hard seltzers out there. Are any of them made with Topo Chico? Hard to imagine that, so probably not, but they aren’t made with tequila either. They’re an interpretation of the flavors.
Though ranch water the cocktail is a very particular thing, Lone River makes a few different flavors of its ranch water seltzer, not just the original lime flavor. No Topo Chico, no tequila, no lime. Ranch water?
Though it might not be new to some folks in Texas, the cocktail has recently enjoyed a surge in popularity nationwide. Think of ranch water the cocktail as the new Aperol spritz. I understand the appeal: the cocktail sounds lovely.
Companies like Diageo and Heineken are not quiet about things like this. They did not make these investments without budgeting for a significant marketing strategy. They will make noise. America will hear about ranch water hard seltzers.
I would not be surprised if more seltzer producers, perhaps even some of our local seltzer producers, get on the ranch water train. I cannot blame them. Why not ride on a train that Diageo and Heineken are paying for? Let those big companies pay for the TV commercials and get consumers excited about ranch water hard seltzer, then make one of your own to satiate the market’s buzzword-fueled appetite.
So, there you go. Even if you don’t drink ranch water hard seltzer, now you know more about it than the people who do.