Rancho Santa Fe brewer brings Yerba mate jolt to hard seltzer market
Rancho Santa Fe native Dan Nierman is the brewer behind Yerbuzz, a new Yerba mate hard seltzer. Yerbuzz reflects the founder’s artistic expression and love of the craft culture in San Diego as well as a nod to Yerba mate’s roots as an offering of friendship and connection.
Coming in the flavors of blueberry and guava, Yerbuzz can now be found in over 80 stores in San Diego County, including Barons, Carmel Valley Liquor, Del Mar Wine Company and Keg N’ Bottle Rancho Santa Fe.
Nierman, 25, grew up in Fairbanks Ranch and attended Del Mar Pines and La Jolla Country Day schools.
“Ever since I was 5 years old I had a passion for culinary arts and my parents supported my culinary endeavors,” said Nierman, who started helping out in a local bakery when he was 12 years old. In the bakery he learned a lot about the art of fermentation, especially as he helped make loaves of sourdough.
When he was old enough to develop a taste for beer, he noticed the big flavor differences between craft products and those from large macro breweries. He wanted to dive into the art of the San Diego craft beer culture and started home brewing with extract beer recipe kits.
“I quickly grew bored of that with two to three batches and I wanted to make something that was completely my own,” he said.
That led to him exploring all-grain brewing, which required a little more skill.
When he went off to Santa Clara University, Nierman knew he wanted to work in the beer industry so he studied finance with the idea that he would own his own brewing company some day. While at school, he worked for Duckfoot Brewing as a finance and accounting intern and on the finance side at Camino Brewing Company in San Jose.
He returned to San Diego after graduating and found work in the beer industry, including a stint at Pizza Port and then Boochcraft, where he worked his way up to a brewer position at the hard kombucha brewery.
In branching out on his own, Nierman was interested in working with Yerba mate, a South American shrub with naturally caffeinated leaves and full of antioxidants and nutrients—it’s rich in theobromine, the feel-good chemical in chocolate. Due to the energy boost it provides, many choose to replace their morning coffee with Yerba mate. The tradition in countries like Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina is to sip the drink out of a gourd with a special straw, passing it among friends.
Nierman formed his LLC in January 2020 and began the long and wild process of recipe development for the next seven months. He wanted to find a way to balance the Yerba mate flavor and keep the nutritional benefits of the tea without it being fermented out. He drew on his experience in kombucha and beer brewing, studied up on wine and cider fermentation and talked to multiple labs, filtration technology companies and ingredient suppliers to develop his own proprietary recipe, adding the Yerba mate after fermentation to preserve all the good stuff and keep its earthy, citrusy tones: “Yerba mate is to hard seltzer, as hops is to beer.”
Twenty-five experimental batches later, Yerbuzz was born and Nierman was “pretty darn happy.”
With the bubbly seltzer, a hint of lemon and honey from the tea leaves comes through behind the fruit flavors of blueberry or guava.
“My intention was for it to be an extremely neutral beverage so it doesn’t seem like you’re drinking alcohol,” Nierman said. “I think I nailed it on the head.”
Yerbuzz is one of the first Yerba mate hard seltzers on the market and has 120 calories, is lower in carbohydrates with zero added sugar.
Like many beer connoisseurs, Nierman admits he looked down on the hard seltzer trend at first, but he has found it’s something he reaches for that is lighter and doesn’t cause as much bloat as a beer: “I still have a soft spot for IPAs and brown ales, that hasn’t changed,” he admits.
During the long months of crafting his recipe, Nierman was also careful about building his brand and finding just the right brewing company that he could work with to make Yerbuzz. After interviewing over 100 breweries, he selected Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company in the Bay Area: “They’ve been a dream to work with,” said Neirman —the product is brewed and canned at the facility and shipped out.
Nierman had aimed to get his first products into customer’s hands by late summer but with the logistical challenges of the pandemic, he ended up taking his time and launched in November. Nierman said he couldn’t be happier with the clean design of the cans and the refreshing taste of the seltzer. When he started out, he wanted to create something that he would like to drink—he did and he does.
“I prefer my product and I’m proud to say that,” said Nierman.
Find out more about Yerbuzz at yerbuzz.co.
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