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Updated: July 3, 2024

Maine's largest brewer wades into nonalcoholic 'hop water' niche

Allagash Brewing Co. exterior Photo / Courtesy, Allagash Brewing Co. Allagash Brewing Co., based at 50 Industrial Way in Portland, recently released its first nonalcoholic beverage.

After nearly three decades in the craft beer business, Allagash Brewing Co. is wading into the hop water niche with its first nonalcoholic beverage. 

Allagash Hop Water, just released in six packs of 12-ounce cans at the brewer’s Portland tasting room, is brewed with water from Sebago Lake, plus sweet orange peel, coriander and two varieties of hops. The water is then cooled, carbonated and packaged.

Josh Fruchtman of Allagash Brewing Co.
Photo / Courtesy, Allagash Brewing Co.
Josh Fruchtman

"Consumer trends are constantly shifting, and we’re part of that movement,” Josh Fruchtman, the company’s sales director, told Mainebiz. 

“Statistics show that more and more people — even those that normally consume alcohol — are looking for more nonalcoholic options,” he added.

“In our own experiences, we’ve found that plenty of folks enjoy ordering nonalcoholic beverages when they’re out with friends. So we’re glad to be able to provide an option for those sorts of occasions.”

With more than 120,000 barrels of beer brewed in 2022, Allagash ranked as Maine's largest brewer in the 2024 Mainebiz Book of Lists.

The brewer, led by founder Rob Tod, has around 140 employees on staff, plus 10 per diem tasting room staff members.

While starting with a small footprint for the new Hop Water, Fruchtman said Allagash would be ready to release the product to a much larger audience if demand grows.

Hopping category

Can of Allagash Hop Water
Photo / Courtesy, Allagash Brewing Co.
The new Allagash Hop Water is available in 12-ounce cans.

While nonalcoholic beer is classically brewed beer with the alcohol removed, hop water is made using a different process that doesn't produce alcohol. Made without grains, hop water is also gluten-free.

Data published by NielsenIQ in October 2022 show $5.5 million in annual U.S. sales of nonalcoholic hop water, up 143% from two years earlier.

Sales also jumped 44% from January to October that year, making hop water the country's fifth-fastest growing craft-style beverage, while sales of craft beer dropped by 7%. 

In Maine, "as we see more nonalcoholic options enter the market to meet consumer demand, the professional beverage community is enacting a new approach to their existing mastery of hops, talents for flavor combination, and existing equipment,” Sarah Bryan, executive director of the Maine Brewers' Guild, told Mainebiz.

Sarah Bryan of the Maine Brewers' Guild
File photo
Sarah Bryan

"Many of our Maine breweries have already produced or are producing an array of nonalcoholic products: hop water from breweries like Cushnoc, Orono Brewing and now Allagash; nonalcoholic beers from 1820, Woodland Farms and Austin Street; Bryant’s Brewing and Side by Each utilizing their space for coffee roasting," she added.

Others are "working to craft a profound spectrum of house-made sodas, mocktails and sparkling teas," she said.

For Allagash, the hop water product debut comes as the brewer rolls out its rotating seasonal House series, starting earlier this summer with Surf House.

That will be followed by a dark hoppy ale called Haunted House and a winter white ale called Ski House.

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