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Hard tea gets a new twist with Yerbuzz

Hard seltzer meets yerba mate in San Diego’s latest beer alternative

Yerbuzz yerba mate hard seltzer debuted with two flavor options: blueberry and guava.
Yerbuzz yerba mate hard seltzer debuted with two flavor options: blueberry and guava.

We’ve already seen the evolution of hard seltzer yield a spinoff known as hard tea, and now a San Diego business has launched around a further expansion of the concept: hard yerba mate.

Yerbuzz blends the hard seltzer trend with increasing popularity of yerba mate, a tea-like beverage brewed from a species of holly plant native to South America. As a result, each can of 12-ounce Yerbuzz cans weighs in at 5.5-percent alcohol, and 20 mg of caffeine, meaning a six-pack yields a lift equivalent of a cup of coffee.

Founder Dan Nierman, a San Diego native, has a home brewing background, plus experience working with brew teams at Miramar’s Duck Foot Brewing and Chula Vista hard kombucha maker Boochcraft. He tells me he conceived of Yerbuzz on late 2019, at a Secret Santa party with friends, after receiving a blend of yerba mate leaves as a gift.

“I saw the hard seltzers that lines the coffee table and thought this would be a great idea to combine the two,” he says.

Nierman and his roommates initially joked the combination would be, “more or less a hipster’s red bull and vodka.” However, over the course of 2020, Nierman got serious. He tested 25 different brewing approaches before deciding on a brew using a dextrose sugar wash. As opposed to sucrose (table sugar), dextrose is a monosaccharide, meaning its yeasts leave behind no residual sugars after fermentation, producing a very dry beverage.

That was important to Nierman, who hasn’t been satisfied with a number of hard seltzers on the market. “I think when you drink a seltzer your mouth should only be tasting the flavor for so long,” he explains, “Other seltzers have a lot of sugar that stays on the tongue, and there’s a certain texture that’s not attractive, It’s almost sticky.”

For Yerbuzz, this means any sweetness is derived from natural fruit flavorings. Nierman says he tasted over a hundred natural flavoring options from a dozen different suppliers. By the time the business launched in November, Yerbuzz offered two options: blueberry and guava. He plans to debut a passion fruit flavor this spring.

Nierman points out the fruit flavors bring balance to the herbal notes of the yerba itself, which he likens to a beloved local ingredient. “Yerba mate is to hard seltzer as hops are to beer,” he says, “The earthy and bitter characters of the yerba mate really help balance out the beverage.”

Currently, Yerbuzz contracts brewing at a brewery in Northern California, then stores and self-distributes out of a third-party logistics business here in San Diego. Since its relatively low-budget launch, Nierman has been slowly growing the business, adding a distribution vehicle and seeking a local warehouse and office lease to establish a fixed Yerbuzz headquarters.

So far, distribution is limited and local, including a few mom-and-pop liquor stores and most Barons Markets. But as Nierman starts growing a Yerbuzz sales staff heading into the new year, he already has his buzzy new brew’s sights set on Los Angeles.

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Yerbuzz yerba mate hard seltzer debuted with two flavor options: blueberry and guava.
Yerbuzz yerba mate hard seltzer debuted with two flavor options: blueberry and guava.

We’ve already seen the evolution of hard seltzer yield a spinoff known as hard tea, and now a San Diego business has launched around a further expansion of the concept: hard yerba mate.

Yerbuzz blends the hard seltzer trend with increasing popularity of yerba mate, a tea-like beverage brewed from a species of holly plant native to South America. As a result, each can of 12-ounce Yerbuzz cans weighs in at 5.5-percent alcohol, and 20 mg of caffeine, meaning a six-pack yields a lift equivalent of a cup of coffee.

Founder Dan Nierman, a San Diego native, has a home brewing background, plus experience working with brew teams at Miramar’s Duck Foot Brewing and Chula Vista hard kombucha maker Boochcraft. He tells me he conceived of Yerbuzz on late 2019, at a Secret Santa party with friends, after receiving a blend of yerba mate leaves as a gift.

“I saw the hard seltzers that lines the coffee table and thought this would be a great idea to combine the two,” he says.

Nierman and his roommates initially joked the combination would be, “more or less a hipster’s red bull and vodka.” However, over the course of 2020, Nierman got serious. He tested 25 different brewing approaches before deciding on a brew using a dextrose sugar wash. As opposed to sucrose (table sugar), dextrose is a monosaccharide, meaning its yeasts leave behind no residual sugars after fermentation, producing a very dry beverage.

That was important to Nierman, who hasn’t been satisfied with a number of hard seltzers on the market. “I think when you drink a seltzer your mouth should only be tasting the flavor for so long,” he explains, “Other seltzers have a lot of sugar that stays on the tongue, and there’s a certain texture that’s not attractive, It’s almost sticky.”

For Yerbuzz, this means any sweetness is derived from natural fruit flavorings. Nierman says he tasted over a hundred natural flavoring options from a dozen different suppliers. By the time the business launched in November, Yerbuzz offered two options: blueberry and guava. He plans to debut a passion fruit flavor this spring.

Nierman points out the fruit flavors bring balance to the herbal notes of the yerba itself, which he likens to a beloved local ingredient. “Yerba mate is to hard seltzer as hops are to beer,” he says, “The earthy and bitter characters of the yerba mate really help balance out the beverage.”

Currently, Yerbuzz contracts brewing at a brewery in Northern California, then stores and self-distributes out of a third-party logistics business here in San Diego. Since its relatively low-budget launch, Nierman has been slowly growing the business, adding a distribution vehicle and seeking a local warehouse and office lease to establish a fixed Yerbuzz headquarters.

So far, distribution is limited and local, including a few mom-and-pop liquor stores and most Barons Markets. But as Nierman starts growing a Yerbuzz sales staff heading into the new year, he already has his buzzy new brew’s sights set on Los Angeles.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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