By Jeff Maisey

Hardywood Park co-founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh have launched an off-shoot brand they’re calling Suncrush, featuring real crushed fruit in flavors that include Tangerine, Ginger-Lime, Southern Peach, Lemon-Raspberry, Black Cherry and Grapefruit.

To be clear this is beer — dubbed a sparking ale — that’s cold-conditioned, gluten-reduced, all-natural, and very low ABV at just 4%.

“We use the same pilsner malt that we use for Pils, Richmond Lager and Singel,” said Eric McKay. “The idea was to have something that’s very low in bitterness, that’s really approachable, and that makes a blank slate for different fruit additions.”

In addition to the fruit and added natural flavors, Matcha green tea is included as part of the main ingredients.

McKay said the Suncrush product is different from radler and shandy-style beers that are made as a mix of fruit soda and beer. 

Suncrush is an independent brand from Hardywood and features bright, fun colors and imagery for its branding. The target audience is anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle and the outdoors, whether on the golf course, poolside, canoeing or mountain biking.

McKay said the brand has the ability to reach wine and spirits drinkers as well as those who enjoy the trendy alcoholic water. 

“We also see categories like hard sparkling seltzer, which is just water, Ethel alcohol and flavor, being an explosively growing category,” he said. “We designed this beer to try to fit into that section of each (retail) store.  So far it’s been the first beer entrant into that category.” 

By strategically marketing the new product under Suncrush, McKay believes retailers will not confuse it for a tradition beer in the Hardywood portfolio. 

Back when McKay and Murtaugh dreamed of owning a brewery as they stirred the kettle on their shared homebrew operation, they vowed to never make a fruit beer. 

“It’s kind of funny that this brand is lighter, refreshing fruit beer,” said McKay.