Five Minutes with Katie Beal Brown, founder of Lone River Ranch Water

by Maddie Rhodes on January 6, 2023 in Food+Drink,

Lone River Ranch Water was founded in 2019 by Texan native Katie Beal Brown. She showed the country one of Texas’ favorite cocktails rooted in the high desert of Far West Texas. If you haven’t seen it in stores already, Ranch Water is a hard seltzer with the taste of agave nectar and lime. It is available in Original, Spicy, Rio Red Grapefruit and Prickly Pear flavors along with the Lone River Ranch Rita Margarita.

Lone River Ranch Water comes in a variety of flavors. Courtesy photo.

How did you come up with the cocktail?

My family has been out in West Texas for over 100 years, and my grandparents have a ranch in Far West Texas where we have been ranching, and it’s kind of been the centerpiece of a lot of our big family milestones. I really grew up going out there. We’ve been drinking a cocktail called Ranch Water in Far West Texas for as long as I can remember. 

There’s actually a legend behind it. The cocktail was originally concocted by a wild herd rancher in the 1960s, near Fort Davis, which happens to be the same area that my family’s ranch is in. After drinking, he followed miles of Texas stars until he was found asleep under a piñon tree. So I always loved that story. As I kind of went further away from home, I actually lived in New York City for a little bit of time. The Ranch Water cocktail and introducing people to it became my party trick, my way to share a little bit more about where I came from. When I would mention the town that I grew up in, I wouldn’t ever really get a response because people weren’t as familiar with the area. So Ranch Water was a way for me to just share a little bit more about the culture of West Texas and where I come from.

Katie Beal Brown grew up spending time at her grandparents’ ranch in West Texas. Photo Aaron LaFevers.

A Ranch Water traditionally is a cocktail made with tequila, soda and lime. And we essentially had an idea while we were living in New York. We went upstate one weekend with a bunch of our friends, and we were sitting around a campfire. We just had the idea of what if we put this in a can and packaged it in a way that we could take it around to do all the things that we love doing outside and at the ranch.

But it really came from a place of wanting to celebrate where I come from in far West Texas. I think it’s one of the few places in America that still resembles the pioneering spirit of the West. It’s just a really special and unique area. In a lot of ways this became about telling that story and celebrating that culture.

How did it take off so quickly? 

We had started before we went to the market. We knew that social media was always going to be a big part of how we really were reaching consumers. A few weeks before our product hit shelves, we had started to generate our social media advertising. It wasn’t your traditional advertising. Again, it was really celebrating where Ranch Water comes from, telling the story behind it and giving people a taste of that lifestyle. We created this pent up demand ahead of it hitting the shelf to where people were actually going into stores and asking if they could find Lone River Ranch Water. If the store didn’t have it, it became a way for that store to learn about it and bring the product in and for us to grow our distribution. We had such power in the early days, just word of mouth. I think a lot of it, too, was just how different our brand fell in our packaging. It was something that a lot of people wanted to share organically on social media. As we started to see that get traction, too, I think it just created this groundswell of a grassroots movement in Texas and Tennessee.

Ranch Water celebrates the West Texas lifestyle. Courtesy photo.

Were you in Texas when you started it?

I was living in New York City, and I was working in advertising at the time. In March of 2020, we went down to my family’s ranch to do our shoot for the product so that we could start to run our social media ads. While we were down there, the lockdown happened. So while we were living in New York, we actually ended up kind of getting stuck out at my family’s ranch for months that then turned into years. Now we live in Texas. Looking back, I can’t imagine launching the brand having not been in Texas and being able to really see and feel every part of it, and going into the stores and understanding what the product looks like on the shelf and really hearing from the consumers here. So I think that was a really serendipitous and cool kind of thing to happen, to bring it full circle and just be back at the ranch. 

Did this idea occur right before the lockdown?

We had been working on it for about five years before that. We spent a lot of time getting the recipe right working on the brand. I really wanted to ensure that I knew if I was going to do this, it had to really be true to the spirit of what Ranch Water is and what it means to people in West Texas. So we put a lot of thought and consideration into every decision around that. I was working in a different career at the time. So we would kind of chip away a little bit of it over time. And then the fall of 2019 is when it really started to build steam. We went out and we raised money from our friends and family. We got our first distributor in Texas, and then that distributor pitched it to our first retailer. And we got a shelf placement at H-E-B, which is the biggest grocer in Texas. They said we’ll take it but you have to have it delivered to us by April 1. So from there, we knew we had a deadline, we had to get it on the shelf. And we were laser focused on getting it out there by that point.

Ranch Water’s first retailer was in Texas but it can now be found in stores across the US.
Courtesy photo.

Have you always known you wanted to work in the alcohol industry? 

I never really imagined I would be working in alcohol and quite frankly, I had no experience working in this field. But I do think there is kind of a pioneering spirit that seeps down through every generation of my family. My dad likes to say that the fate of our family really changed when my great great grandfather invented this wire fence tightener. It allowed him to raise livestock and then he could generate wealth which changed the fate for his family and his children and then the rest of our family for generations. I think that spirit is something that I’ve just always felt like has been a part of me. In a way, I always knew that I would do something entrepreneurial. I just didn’t quite know what that would be. Once this idea kind of planted a seed in my head, I felt very pulled to it. I think because it felt like a way to really celebrate where I came from and the generations of that pioneering spirit through my family’s history as well.

How did you get it across the US?

When we set out to do this, I always knew I wanted to build a brand and not just put a product on the shelf. A lot of that came from connecting to the lifestyle that our brand represents and telling the story of where we come from. I think in a way through the pandemic, this lifestyle has kind of had a moment because a lot of people got back to this essential living. It became very aspirational for people. I mean, you saw people in New York City that were doing herb gardens and they were making their own bread. I think people just really craved being able to be more independent in terms of what essential living is, and there’s nothing more essential than the western lifestyle where you’re connected to your food sources, you’re living off the land, etc. So I think by way of that, we’ve culturally seen a rise in a lot of things that are representing that western lifestyle.

Ranch Rita is the newest product launched by Lone River. Courtesy photo.

Do you have any new ideas coming up?

Last spring, we actually launched a product called Ranch Rita. It’s interesting for us because the margarita was actually invented in Far West Texas as well. So I like to say who better to put a margarita on the shelf than a West Texan? Because we’re very specific about how we make our margaritas. So again, we were very thoughtful and considered how we formulated this product and brought it to life. We wanted it to really get to the spirit of what makes a margarita good and where it comes from. So we launched the Ranch Rita last spring nationwide. And then this coming spring, we’re actually coming out with some new flavors of the Ranch Rita as well.


Cover photo courtesy Katie Beal Brown.

Maddie Rhodes is a graduate student at Syracuse University. She aspires to work for a travel magazine when she graduates.