It’s official: the nation has had too much White Claw. The popular hard seltzer, known for having “no laws,” has been flying off shelves so fast that the company can’t keep up.
Don’t panic: Local brewery Mindful Brewing has joined the hard seltzer craze with the release of Zemu: Blackberry Edition, giving Pittsburghers another — and better — option.
Brewing a hard seltzer is not easy; the process is most similar to producing a sparkling wine. The head brewer at Mindful, Marcus Cox, says it’s beyond the difficulty of brewing a lager, because seltzer is “a much more exposed product, any defect is more obvious, so there is nowhere to hide.” It takes six to eight weeks for the seltzer to move through Mindful’s 10-barrel system, twice the time of any of its other brews.
Zemu’s alcohol content, however, is more like a beer. It’s an easy-to-drink 5 percent and tastes slightly malty, though there’s no actual malt in the seltzer. Zemu is made with corn sugar — similar to table sugar — with a champagne-like yeast.
“The way that that yeast ages into the beer, it gives a very specific kind of a savory note,” says Cox. “The mouthfeel that savory note gives is what people would normally associate with that sweetness in beer.”
To get the fruit flavor right — which the brewer notes they nailed in the first batch — Mindful uses From The Named Fruit (FTNM) flavors. Cox calls that approach the “Rolls Royce” of flavorings; there’s nothing artificial about it. Natural flavors from actual fruits are compressed into a distillation, making a higher-end extract. It’s a strong, organic taste. One ounce of blackberry FTNM can flavor an entire keg.
It’s no surprise that the difference between the flavor of Zemu and other hard seltzers is so immediately identifiable. As someone who has partaken in their fair share of White Claws, I’ve started to expect the cough syrup taste of a spiked can. But Mindful Brewing keeps the light berry flavor without making the seltzer cloying. The blackberry hits at the finish, leaving a refreshing, natural taste.
That characteristic is how the seltzer got its name. Zemu is the largest glacier in the Eastern Himalayan Mountains, “a vibe of clean, pure, and natural.”
Cox is already dreaming up new flavors for Zemu. Lemon-lime will follow the blackberry, then cranberry for the holidays, and the brewer is hoping to have the seltzer in cans by the new year. Once he balances the long brewing process with demand, Pittsburgh will be seeing a lot more of Zemu.