Yes, the culture of the 90s is making a return. Showtime has brought back the early 1990 series of Twin Peaks and now MillerCoors returns in 2017 with Zima. This self described “Refreshing Citrus Beverage” returns in time for the 4th of July but it will disappear (maybe for the better) by Labor Day.
Developed and test marketed by Coors the year prior before going national in 1994, Zima hit the beverage world with a bang selling 1.3 million barrels its first year. As its marketing tagline stated Zima was “Zomething Different”. This was a time period in which clear beverages were all of the rage. The early 90’s brought Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear and Miller even test marketed Miller Clear in this same time period. Crystal Pepsi even made a return in Canada and Amazon Pantry last year.
After the 90’s Zima seemed to lose some of its luster even after a failed attempt to launch the short lived Zima Gold that was marketed to appeal to the insecure drinker that wanted to pretend it was a beer. After continued downward sales Zima was retired here in the United Stated in 2008. Though it still has a life in Japan.
Now as we enter the summer of 2017 MillerCoors has recently re-launched this malternative beverage for a limited release now through Labor Day. For this go round Zima is being fermented in La Crosse, Wisconsin at City Brewing, a brewery that has a long brewing history and was once home to Old Style Lager.
Sold in 6 pack 12 oz. fluted bottles we found a sixer over the weekend at a Safeway. And to make this experience bring back even more memories from our youth we sought out a bag of Jolly Rancher candy. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to find Jolly Rancher candy these days. After a couple more tries at other Safeway’s and a few convenience stores we purchased a bag at a local Fred Meyer. Jolly Rancher’s in hand we arrived back to the Brewpublic headquarters to begin our Zima tasting of 2017.
Upon twisting off the “Z” logoed cap on the bottle we poured the first Zima into one of our logoed BREWPUBLIC glasses. Though the beverage was retired in 2008 the last time that we had it had to be the mid-90s. Even through our hazy memory the Zima of 2017 tastes just like we remember the Zima of 20 years ago. At 5.0% ABV this incarnation of Zima is quite refreshing and less sweet than many of its competing malternative beverages.
Next up was tearing apart a bag of Jolly Rancher candy. Not sure when this “at home” alteration of Zima began but for a time it was quite popular to add a Jolly Rancher or from what we have also heard a Mike and Ike candy to a bottle or glass of Zima. Our bag of Jolly Rancher candy included flavors of Green Apple, Blue Raspberry, Cherry, Grape and Watermelon. The longer the Jolly Rancher sits in the Zima the more it dissolves and truly turns the beverage a shade of the candy’s color.
From sampling the unaltered Zima and the five Jolly Rancher enhanced flavored Zima our preference goes to the original and then the Cherry and Green Apple Jolly Rancher flavors. Grab a sixer of Zima and some Jolly Rancher candy and try this experiment at home with some friends. Soon you too will be trying “Zomething Different”!
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 25 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in the archives of Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @hopapalooza.