Meet the San Diego brewer who created the world’s first yerba mate hard seltzer
The concept for Yerbuzz arrived naturally, during a Secret Santa Party with friends in December 2019.
“My housemate gifted me a craft yerba mate blend,” Mission Valley resident Dan Nierman said. “At the time we were drinking light beers and hard seltzers and it immediately hit me that it’d be a good idea to combine the two into one!”
Nierman, who grew up in Rancho Santa Fe, formed the company Yerbuzz a few weeks later, with a mission to create the world’s first yerba mate hard seltzer. After a lot of research — including interviewing a handful of labs and filtration companies, conducting numerous fermentation studies, and testing various organic acids and different natural flavors — the San Diego homebrewer officially launched his product on Nov. 20, 2020.
Sold in six packs of 12 ounce cans, Yerbuzz is currently available in two flavors: blueberry and guava. The alcoholic beverage has 5.5 percent ABV, 120 calories, and no gluten or sugar.
Yerbuzz is contract brewed in the Bay Area, but the company is opening an office and distribution hub in central San Diego in a few weeks. At this time, Yerbuzz is one man show, but Nierman adds that a few of his friends have been lending him a hand during the launch.
PACIFIC caught up with Nierman to talk about the process of brewing Yerbuzz, what yerba mate hard seltzer actually tastes like, and more.
(Note: Some of the answers in this interview have been edited for length and clarity.)
PACIFIC: What is your background in brewing?
DAN NIERMAN: I’ve been brewing since I was 17 years old. I’ve always had a passion for the culinary arts specifically with respect to baking and fermenting, and being raised in California I was really excited to develop my career in the craft beer industry. I interned doing financial work with Duck Foot Brewing and Camino Beer Company in San Jose, California.
Then I jumped to working (in San Diego) at Pizza Port in the kitchen and helping on the brew deck whenever the opportunity arose. Then I moved to Boochcraft and worked my way up from an entry level brewer all the way to lead brewer and cellarman. All while doing this I homebrewed as well.
Tell us a little about the process of brewing Yerbuzz. What are some key differences in the process compared to other beverages, like craft beer or hard kombucha?
After studying and tinkering for close to seven months, I developed the Yerbuzz recipe. We have a lot of proprietary processes that I’ve developed that we can’t share, but what makes Yerbuzz so special is the attention to detail of every single ingredient.
In short we create a strong “sugar brew” which is essentially a dextrose ferment that is high ABV. We then filter it three times, dilute the brew to the correct ABV, add the tea (after fermentation so we keep all the nutrients within the tea) as well as natural flavors. In making the recipe, I studied beer, cider, kombucha and wine, and brought all that knowledge together to make Yerbuzz.
How does the taste of traditional yerba mate compare to Yerbuzz?
Traditional yerba mate can be a bit smoky, so we avoided using this type of product. When unsmoked, the aroma and taste somewhat resembles earthy, piney and bitter characteristics. We use yerba mate to keep balance in the beverage ... The bitterness from the yerba mate cuts the perceptible sweetness of the beverage and really makes the drink more palatable than other hard seltzers.
If drinking traditional yerba mate without sugar, you may be overwhelmed with new flavors, but Yerbuzz is built for the people who prefer both sides of the spectrum. We took the middle ground and don’t want to flood your taste buds.
What makes Yerbuzz different from other hard seltzers on the market?
Many other hard seltzers seem to be very one-dimensional and overly sweet. The earthy and floral characteristics give the Yerbuzz a nice rounded palette with an interesting background ... Seltzers are supposed to be light, but many of the larger companies are essentially just making alcoholic soda. Given the market is shifting away from soda, I wanted to make something low in sugar and something that doesn’t resemble sugary water in any shape or form.
I often say this: “Yerba mate is to hard seltzer, as hops is to beer.” The yerba mate really balances the beverage out and makes each and every sip more than the last.
As a native and current resident of San Diego, what do you like most about the region?
In my free time I love to hike as well as surf, and San Diego is perfect for all that. I’m pretty active and truly love all the different eateries that San Diego has to offer. One of my favorite pastimes is/was visiting breweries with friends. My favorite city in San Diego is definitely Encinitas, specifically the section right off (Highway) 101. It’s laidback, the beach is nearby and there are great restaurants all walking distance from each other.
For more information about Yerbuzz, visit yerbuzz.co.
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.