The healthy beer market is, by definition, an oxymoron.
Which is why when Michelob Ultra tries to sell us on its beer meshing with a lifestyle of running and biking, the conceit falls as flat as the product, a watered down version of anything beer lovers would actually enjoy drinking.
“There really aren’t that many beers at all in the world that are fit for this purpose,” says Geoffrey Pedder, founder of Medfield’s ZēLUS Beer Co. “I’ve done a lot of races and I’ve noticed after a lot of these events that people would be served beer and drink beer, but none of these beers were designed for that.
“Mich Ultra certainly goes after that market, in terms of low calories or low alcohol. But I have to be honest, I don’t know many people who drink it.”
Pedder founded ZēLUS for runners and other athletes to drink after races, and for active folks to enjoy in general. He makes it clear he’s not claiming his products are healthy (the FDA would never allow it), but ZēLUS beers contain a higher proportion of potassium, sodium, and calcium — electrolytes, in other words — than normal brews.
The ZēLUS lineup includes four beers. Long Run apricot pale ale (4.7 percent alcohol by volume) is unfiltered and brewed with real apricots. Competitor IPA (4.7 percent ABV) is brewed with four different American hops and flaked wheat, to keep things light. Light Into Dark (4.7 percent ABV), a winter porter, satisfies the need for a cold-weather seasonal.
The best of the bunch is Race Pace (3.7 percent ABV), a New England mild ale heavily hopped with Galaxy and Mandarina Bavaria. It smells as pungently tropical as your favorite pale ale and packs a ton of flavor for the ABV. All of the ZēLUS brews taste a little salty, which is kind of the point, but each stands up on its own even if you didn’t know they were supposed to be extra quenching.
“If we’re at a running race, people are really into the concept,” says Pedder. “At a liquor store, it’s all about the beer. I think we do really have something unique.”
ZēLUS contract brews in Ipswich and self-distributes to about 130 accounts, mostly on the North Shore. Pedder says he wants to prove the concept here before expanding the brand outside of Massachusetts.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.