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Lupho: How We Made a Health Drink for Hop Heads

10th March 2023... by Steve Keegan, co-founder

We designed our new Lupho hop soda as a healthy, feelgood soft drink for craft beer heads - something that fits with today’s drive for better well being and a more balanced lifestyle. 

To hit this spot, we wanted to keep many of the hop properties of a regular beer, but align them with a deeper angle of health and wellbeing - creating something that gave us big hop hit aroma and flavours, but also provided the calming and refreshing elements of the noble hop.

This gave us a lot to work through. Here’s the list of things we weren’t prepared to compromise on:

  1. Lupho had to give us that ‘one pint’ feelgood feeling
  2. Lupho had to be super healthy, good for you
  3. Lupho had to be amazingly flavoursome - like, top notch

(Given that mix, the first thing I did was think about using CBD in this drink. I’ve known and used CBD personally for a long time now- it has many of the properties outlined above. The challenge with CBD, however, is flavour: it’s rather overpowering and I knew this would distract from the beautiful hoppiness that we wanted in Lupho, and so it was a no-go from the off.)

I didn’t want to be swayed too easily, so I built Lupho from the ground up without trying any other hop waters that are on the shelves right now.  I started with an ambitious taste profile and then I got to work with the health side of things - and the more I dived into the world of hops, the more I became obsessed with this amazing plant.

When we think about those little buds we pop on our craft beer goggles and dream of big beers: IPAs, DIPAs, hoppy pale ales and all of the amazing flavours and aromas that came out of the American craft beer boom. We love hops, but there’s so much more to them than just pine and resin.

Most beer lovers have heard of the big American hops like Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe, as well as traditional European hops such as East Kent Goldings, Saaz and Fuggles. What a lot of people don’t know about hops is that they have SO MANY amazing medicinal qualities. CBD oil from the cannabis family gets a lot of the headlines now, but hops (some say the sister of the hemp plant) give similar, if not better, benefits as the cannabis-based chemical.  

(Here’s a great little article on the relationship between hops and cannabis.)

Historically, the hop plant was mainly seen as a weed, but people always knew it had many great holistic qualities. Here are the ones that are important to us in relation to Lupho… 

Delivering that feelgood ‘one pint’ feeling

As well as making you feel pretty damn good, drinking an occasional one pint of beer has a wide range of (well researched) benefits: amongst other things, it reduces cardiovascular disease and stress and improves cognitive functions (via xanthohumol found in hops) and the development of bone and connective tissue (via its high levels of silicon). 

We looked pretty deeply into how we might create an alcoholic drink that could regulate your blood alcohol levels, helping us to keep that kind of ‘one pint’ feeling that breaks down stress and makes us feel happy.  

The challenge is that alcohol has a compound effect on how drunk we feel, and how drunk we actually get will depend on a lot of factors like your gender, your usual average intake (tolerance), how healthy you are, your body weight, how much exercise you do and the type of alcohol you ingest. In general, booze sticks around in the blood for six hours or so, and much longer in other parts of the body like saliva and hair, so anything alcohol-based didn’t really lend itself to what we were trying to do with Lupho.

So why not just develop another AF beer?

We love our AF beers, they’re great. They have loads of body and character that a lot of other AF beers don’t manage to pull off, mainly due to the totally authentic brewing methods we use to make them. Because of this they contain a decent amount of sugar - all natural sugar from the malts that we use, but sugar nonetheless.

So why not develop one of those funky low calorie, no sugar AF beers?

Because they don’t taste very good. They put the importance of reduced calories and sugar over flavour, and we will never sacrifice flavour!

So what else can deliver the magic ‘one pint’ effect?

Hello GABA!

Also known by the catchy name Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, GABA is a naturally occuring substance within all of us that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and nervous system. GABA is magic - it inhibits certain brain signals and slows down activity in your nervous system, ultimately making us feel more calm, more sociable and less anxious, stressed and fearful. Isn’t this what everyone wants?!? If you could bottle (or can) this up, you’d be worth a Nobel prize right?

Well, Humulus Lupulus, the wonderful hop (see where we get Lupho from?), stimulates GABA. To get a bit sciency on you, the hop is a sedative plant whose pharmacological effects are due principally to its bitter resins - especially the alpha-acid component 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol - which significantly increases the activity of neurotransmitters (GABA!) that work within our central nervous systems. 

Basically, hops help you to relax and feel good in a big way… and so we put boatloads of them in Lupho.

Delivering on good health

There’s many routes into good health, but, alongside gut health, one of the most important is sleep… and the value of sleep is totally overlooked in modern life. 

Not everyone knows that there are four different stages of sleep, with REM being the final one of the four.  The important place to get to is stage three, where we are at our most relaxed - and if we get enough shut eye in this stage then we feel at our most refreshed when we wake up.

In stage three, the following amazing things happen:

  • Our blood pressure drops
  • Our bodies promote muscle growth and repair
  • Blood flow increases to muscles
  • Growth hormone is released
  • Tissue growth and cell repair occurs
  • Our immune system strengthens
  • Our brain flushes waste and exhibits long slow brain waves

If we don’t get enough of this stage of sleep (ideally we need around 90 mins a night) then our bodies don’t repair properly.  We get sick more easily, our stress levels increase and we become lethargic. Getting enough stage three sleep requires a good plan:  from maintaining a good late night routine (no screens/alcohol/sugar/caffeine), to getting the right kinds of food and drink into our bodies.  

Which is where hops come in. Hops have an amazing ability to get you to this recovery stage of sleep, and keep you there because of our good fried GABA. As mentioned, more GABA means less stress, more calm… and better sleep. 

So shouldn’t we just drink more hoppy beer? 

Unfortunately not. Whilst the sedative effect of alcohol induces feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, too much booze can radically reduce the quality of sleep. Research shows that alcohol can damage sleep quality by up to nearly 40%. People who drink large amounts of alcohol before going to bed are prone to delayed sleep onset, meaning they need more time to fall asleep. (As their liver enzymes metabolise the alcohol during the night and their blood alcohol level decreases, these folks are also more likely to experience sleep disruptions.) Drinking alcohol before bed time can also add to the suppression of REM sleep. 

The beauty of Lupho is that it’s all hops and no booze. We’ve designed it to get the most out of the medicinal hop properties - by stimulating GABA production, Lupho helps you to relax your muscles and your mind… and get you to a better place for better sleep. 

(If you want to fully geek out on the hop effect, check out this report.)

Delivering Max Flavour

OK, so Lupho gives you a feelgood kick, and it’s healthy. But what about the taste?

Above and beyond everything else, flavour is the most important thing to us here at Only With Love. You get that from our range of AF beers. They’re real beers. They look like great beers, feel like great beers (awesome mouthfeel), and they taste like great beers too. If we couldn’t get the flavour profile right then we just wouldn’t make them. 

The same goes for our hop sodas. Getting the flavours right in Lupho was a tricky affair. It’s not a brewed product, and when there aren’t any malts or fermentation involved, hops act very differently in a drink:  the bitterness can be overpowering and that beautiful hoppy aroma doesn’t come through so well.

We worked for six months straight testing lots of different products and innovative extraction methods with our hop suppliers to get Lupho to the place where we wanted it to be.

The current edition is Citra and apricot - it’s the perfect pairing for Lupho #1. We extract the exact amount of resinous acids to give the best medicinal benefit from the Citra hops, which we then balance out with the sweetness of the fruit. We also have some super tight processes around the blending of the drink that allow us to deliver that lovely citrus hit from the hops whilst still packing a big hop aroma and palate with huge bursts of the fruit. 

So there you have it. It’s got a lot going on. Lupho is our healthy, feelgood soft drink for craft beer heads.  We hope you’re enjoying a can or two - especially when winding down. It really does hit the spot.


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