Behind the rise of Lone River, a ranch water pioneer

How it started

Some say that everyone on Madison Avenue has a signature cocktail. For “Mad Men” fictional adman Don Draper, it was the bourbon-based old fashioned. And for Katie Beal Brown, a former account director at Anomaly, it was ranch water. 

“I grew up in West Texas, and my family settled out there over 100 years ago. We actually have a working ranch out in Far West Texas,” said Brown, now the founder and CEO of Lone River Beverage Company. She and her family have been drinking ranch water for “as long as she can remember.” 

With a glint in her eye, Brown explained that there’s some family folklore behind the drink: Legend has it that a rancher created the cocktail in the 1960s on the same spot where her family’s ranch sits. After a few too many sips, the rancher followed “miles of Texas stars until he fell asleep under a Pinyon tree.”

Brown knows the story is a compelling one. When she moved to New York to work for advertising agencies such as Anomaly and JWT, she used the ranch water story as a party trick of sorts to introduce where she came from—because as every marketer knows, stories work better than facts.

After more than a few of these parties, some of Brown’s friends started to adopt the cocktail as their own, and introduce their friends to it, too. That got Brown thinking. 

“As we started to see canned cocktails and seltzers come into the market, I felt like there was an opportunity to package ranch water and really build a brand around the culture that it represents,” Brown said. “Anomaly at the time had an internal incubator—a program called Anomaly Funded—where as an employee, you could pitch an idea. And if you won the process, they would provide you with some resources to bring that idea to life and further it.”

After working with some freelance creative partners on the idea for Lone River, she decided in 2018 to throw her hat in the Anomaly Funded ring. Spoiler alert: she won. With Anomaly’s help, Brown put the finishing touches on Lone River’s branding and packaging, then connected with a company that would help her finalize the liquid formula for the product. 

In 2019, the brand raised a friends and family round (Brown declined to specify the amount of money raised) and secured its first distribution partner, which helped connect Lone River to grocery chain H-E-B. From there, distribution grew to independent retailers in Texas and Tennessee.