Dave Mead remembers childhood summers fondly. “[My family] would wheel around the state camping and fishing. My dad was an advertising agency owner, copywriter and photographer and he documented the family’s every move. Camping excursions, fishing trips. It somehow all revolved around these beautiful Texas watering holes.”
There’s something special about Texas water, and not just to Rambler Co-Founders Dave Mead, James Moody, and Jeff Trucksess. Places like Blue Hole, Jacob’s Well, and Hamilton Pool are incredibly popular for a reason. “Limestone is one of the most effective natural filters around. It’s why so many of the Texas waters look the way they do—crisp, clean and clear,” says Moody.
“It’s a bigger deal than people think. Psychologically, people can’t articulate why they’re drawn to places like Barton Springs or the Greenbelt. But it’s that limestone that’s doing the work—constantly filtering and re-filtering that water.” He continues.
Capturing Texas’ terroir was the vision for Rambler all along. “The concept of taste of place is very relevant today,” Mead interjects.
“‘Place’ has a relationship with farm to table, it has a relationship with craft beer, it has a relationship with slow food and the wellness movement. It’s a commitment to curiosity, to understanding true provenance of why things taste the way they do. When something tastes like a place you ask yourself ‘how does it get that way?’ And that’s what we were investigating for years while developing Rambler.”
Yes, years. With the help of a water scientist, the team spent years perfecting Rambler’s flavor profile. Trucksess recalls, “Since we were hellbent on remaining sodium-free, we went through 40 different versions before we found the right balance.”
And balance is at the core of understanding how to make a good sparkling water product. Moody explains, “It’s a negotiation of nuance and subtlety. The mineral profile of a water is only one part of what you remember about taste. Taste for sparkling water comes from a few different places. One: Base water. Two: Filtration. Three: Minerality. Four: Carbonation. Water to water you’ll see that carbonation dramatically affects taste, or even more importantly, people’s memory of the experience. If you have a unique mineral profile plus a unique carbonation you remember that water in a different way. If there is no mineral profile then the water itself won’t be memorable. If you take water through reverse osmosis and leave it at zero, it’ll taste like zero. Minerals add body, complexity, and flavor to the water itself. And then carbonation levels either amplify the minerals or detract from them.”
So what are we tasting when we take a sip of Rambler? Mead puts it best, “You might not be able to put your finger on it, but you keep coming back to it.”
Moody adds, “There’s an important distinction between taste and flavor. Our focus was to develop the taste of Texas without adding flavor to cover it up. We identified minerals that we think are memorable in taste and indicative of Texas limestone. Then it was a question of degree. Which minerals at which levels, how do they complement one another, how do they not overwhelm the taste?”
The result is a point of view. Rambler’s signature taste balances minerality with sharp carbonation that has a bit of a bite, making it excellent on its own or with a splash of something stronger.
Moody continues, “It’s like a good steak. The best Texas barbecue guys will tell you they season simply with salt & pepper. When it’s great meat in the first place, salt & pepper is all you need to bring it to life. That’s what we do with our water. It’s great in the first place and we bring it to life.”
And as a business partner of legendary pitmaster Aaron Franklin, James Moody knows a good steak. It’s easy to categorize Rambler as “plain” or “flavorless,” but in reality the opposite is true. Rambler captures the taste of Texas in each can. Though the outcome might be simple, getting there is incredibly complex. After all, Rambler is all about the journey and its co-founders wouldn’t have it any other way.