Katie Beal Brown grew up on her family’s ranch in a small, Far West Texas town where her family settled over 100 years ago.
It was here she developed her pioneering spirit. It’s a spirit dating back to her great-great-grandfather, who patented the wire fence tightener in 1894, and her great-grandfather, one of the early wildcatters (late 19th-century oil prospectors who drilled exploratory wells).
“Since I was a little girl, I was always very ambitious, and I’ve always had entrepreneurial ambitions,” she recalls. “But I was never sure how that would manifest itself in my life down the road.”
Fast forward to 2023. Katie is now the CEO of Lone River Beverage Company, which dominates the Texas market with its take on the classic cocktail of tequila, soda and lime—canned ranch water. But what sparked the idea?
She wanted to share a piece of West Texas with her friends.
A Taste of Home
When Katie got married, she and her husband moved to New York City.
While there, a common question she received at social gatherings was, “Where are you from?”
Rather than explain where her hometown is on the map, Katie showed them the spirit of West Texas by introducing them to the region’s signature ranch water.
“When I would tell people the name of the town that I grew up in, they didn’t have any real context or connection to it,” Katie recalls. “But doing it through the lens of ranch water kind of allowed me to share a little more about the culture of West Texas.”
Brown served the cocktail to her friends at parties, and what began as an icebreaker quickly spread beyond her social circle.
“Our friends introduced it to their friends, and I felt like there was a bigger interest in this cocktail,” she says.
Katie, who worked for an advertising agency then, had a lightbulb moment.
She thought, “What if we built a brand and packaged this drink in a way that we could share it with more people?”
Over the next two to three years, Katie went through the process of figuring out how to bring her idea to life, and in 2019, she founded Lone River. She notes the symbolism behind the name, mentioning how a river shapes a landscape and moves things out of its way to go down a path.
“In an area where there’s not a lot of water, there is this lone river charting its own path,” Katie explains. “It spoke to the pioneering spirit of my family and the pioneering spirit that built the brand.”
After receiving the funding to take the brand to the next level, she quit her job in January 2020 to focus on the business full-time. Later that year, she secured a major distribution deal with H-E-B, one of Texas’ largest grocery store chains, with a deadline to deliver the order by April 1, 2020.
But little did she know the brand she built while living in New York City would bring her back to the small town where she grew up.
Katie and her husband were at her family’s ranch when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, which led to them deciding to move from New York City to Fort Worth. For Katie, the move back to Texas was an opportunity to bring her business full circle and reconnect with the region that inspired her. With the distribution deadline looming, the pressure was on.
Thankfully, they met the deadline, and Ranch Water hit the shelves in April 2020. The product, made with agave nectar and a taste of lime, comes in four flavors — original, prickly pear, Rio red grapefruit and spicy.
During the spring and summer of 2021, Lone River expanded to a national audience and caught the attention of the global beverage leader Diageo, which acquired the company in August 2021.
In April 2022, Lone River launched its Ranch Rita Classic Margarita, followed by the release of a variety pack in February. The variety pack includes the classic, blood orange, mango and spicy flavors.
Celebrating Country Culture
In March, Lone River partnered with country music superstar Miranda Lambert to launch a new ad campaign that honors the grit and spirit of country culture.
The campaign also highlights the “do-it-your-own-way” ethos on which Katie and Miranda got their start as trailblazing Texan women.
“I don’t do a ton of partnerships, but I was drawn to Katie’s story, and found so many similarities with my own, so working with Lone River is really special for me,” Miranda says in a press release. “I’m a storyteller first and foremost, and that’s exactly what Katie set out to do with this brand.”
Lone River approached working with the country music powerhouse like a true partnership. They wanted more than a celebrity face to associate the brand with, and Miranda far exceeded their expectations.
“Coming out of our shoot with her, she sent me a note that said it felt really right and real,” Katie recalls. “We wanted somebody that represents the values of where we come from and would be invested in
helping us build this brand.”
Katie and Miranda will also team up to host luncheons and networking events to empower entrepreneurial women. As Lone River continues to make its mark in the beverage industry nationwide, Katie wants to ensure that people remember where it all started.
“We wouldn’t be here without the support of our local consumers,” she says. “We had a dream of bringing this product to life and introducing it to as many people as possible. I never imagined we’d be a national brand, and a lot of that is because of the support Texans have given us along the way.”
To learn more about Lone River, visit loneriverbevco.com.