What is ranch water? Great Lakes Brewing Co. enters hard salts market with Agave Twist

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Great Lakes Brewing Co. enters the hard salt market with a quartet of Agave Twist cans, flavored “ranch water”.

The Cleveland Brewery plans to launch the hard seltzer in mid-October, CEO Mark King said.

The flavors – black cherry, lemon-lime, blackberry and pineapple – are billed in the lineage of “ranch water”. The hard seltzer is gluten free, contains 100 calories and will be available in packs of 12 mixed.

“Ranch water” is an unregistered term that dates back to the 1960s in Texas. It is usually a mixture of tequila, lime, and bottled mineral water. And outside of Texas, craft breweries – inclined to let the creative juices flow in the brewery – are putting their twist on it.

King, who previously worked in Texas and was familiar with ranch water, said the timing made perfect sense.

“A year and a half ago no one knew what ranch water was,” King said.

King compares the timing of the Agave Twist launch to not wanting to pass up an opportunity. Craft breweries are nibbling Seltzer’s market share.

“It’s a growth category, and it can be done well – if you do it right,” King said. “It’s always going to be seen that way as a drain on money. But can we make a really high quality product, could we do it right and could we differentiate it from what the big guys do?

These big brands include White Claw and Truly. But craft breweries lend their insight to the making of seltzer. R. Shea Brewing Co. in Akron recently announced a unique initiative to the market. All Fizzed Up, a festival devoted to hard seltzers, was scheduled for Saturday September 11 in Cleveland, but was canceled due to Covid concerns.

Some time ago, King went to see Steve Forman, the brewer at the Great Lakes pub, and asked him, “Can you ferment real agave instead of doing something all brewed with sugar?” “

Not only could he do it, he could flavor it with lime puree. The concoction was on tap last summer in some sort of test, and it was a hit.

“He was one of our best sellers,” King said. “People who loved seltz loved it. Tongue in cheek, we called it “Cleveland Ranch Water”. People were like, “Does this taste like ranch dressing?” “”

When it came time to consider which beer choices to roll out in 2021, the seltzer made a difference.

“We can’t create small, niche brands,” said King, who believed the market was and is ready.

Research and acceptance from the cast was essential. King said Boulevard Brewing Co., a well-known Kansas City, Missouri brewery, released Quirk, made with real fruit juice. King said it was the # 2 hard seltzer in its regional market behind Truly. It even sells better than White Claw, he said.

Real fruit and agave “really brings out the flavor,” he said of Agave Twist.

“We think we’ve nailed the taste,” he said.

Agave Twist will be launched in Cleveland via Superior Beverage Group and in Lorain via Heidelberg Distributing. The brewery had hoped to create a larger area for the launch, but has been delayed by the continued shortage of cans plaguing the beverage industry. Think of a brewery with multiple brands and limited cans like a set of musical chairs. There will always be one or two odd products.

So at the expense of packaging for other brands, Agave Twist will land in cans. This means that the Christmas Ale will not be launched in six-can packs. Commodore Perry returned to six-pack bottles. And Ohio City Oatmeal Stout will also be in bottles “so we can allocate cans to Agave Twist”.

King said the seltzer is made at Austin Eastciders, a hard cider company he founded in Texas, because the facility meets all quality standards – he knows the operations, offers a variety of packaging, uses proper filtration. and uses a special and careful “tunnel pasteurizer”. The latter is critical, he said.

“If you don’t pasteurize (properly), with fruit inside, there is a real danger that they will re-ferment and the cans will explode,” he said.

Great Lakes has grown its off-site business, posting double-digit growth in this segment of the industry. On site remains a challenge. All of this can be attributed to the Covid restrictions.

On Thursdays and Fridays, Great Lakes had two or three depths at the bar. Now there can be empty bar stools, King said.

The push to add ranch water is also part of a larger goal for the brewery, which has focused on strengthening its traditional brands – Dortmunder Gold, Eliot Ness, Edmund Fitzgerald. All of these brands have increased their sales this year, King said.

The brewery added what it sees as innovative brands including Crushworthy, a low-calorie citrus wheat beer, and TropiCoastal, a tropical India Pale Ale.

“Agave Twist allows us to make something that’s real flavors – real agaves, real fruit,” King said. “So there’s a craft story there, and we’re still able to hit 100 calories, four and a half percent (alcohol).”

Competition from market growth is not stopping King, who arrived in the Great Lakes in 2019 with a solid background in the beverage industry.

“Everyone was saying five years ago, ‘Don’t get into craft beer, there are 5,000 breweries already.’ Well now there are 9,000 of them. Fat Head’s, BrewDog, and Rhinegeist have all taken part of the Great Lakes over the years, and we’re taking it back.

I am on cleveland.comlife and culture team and cover topics related to food, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills from WTAM-1100 and I talk about food and drink usually at 8:20 am on Thursday mornings. And tune in at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays for “Beer with Bona and Much, Much More” with Munch Bishop on 1350-AM The Gambler. Twitter: @ mbona30.

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