Spiked seltzer has been the undisputed beverage champion of Summer 2019. Over the last year alone, sales of the low-calorie, bubbly, refreshing drink have grown "roughly 200 percent,
" according to Business Insider. Rusty Bull Brewing Co.
saw the market and decided to finish the summer with a Sumo-flavored spiked seltzer of their own.
Brewery co-owners Brian Bogstad and Ben Mayer tried 30 different natural flavoring combinations before deciding on sumo. The Sumo fruit is a hybrid of tangerine slightly larger than an orange and a little sweeter, the result of FDA experiments in the '70s. Bogstad and Mayer make their seltzer with reverse osmosis water, "a considerable amount of sugar," and Champagne yeast along with the sumo flavoring.
"It hit almost like sake at terminal gravity" (the moment your beverage reaches desired ABV during the fermentation process) before the beverage was finally carbonated and put on tap. With 4.5% ABV, the seltzer is just 0.5% shy of your friendly neighborhood Claw.
While some breweries may have this idea that there are "certain things you don't do," like making a hard seltzer, the Rusty Bull guys say "at the end of the day, we aren't one of those breweries." The pair also gives credit to the Charleston beverage scene where brewers and drinkers are encouraged to push the boundaries by trying new and creative things.
The seltzer is named after the cloths used by sumo wrestlers, Mawashi (unrelated to the fruit). It's a "product that fits the niche, not all beers can" the two say, and anything to get new customers in the door is good for business. Easy-drinking spiked seltzers can lead wary sippers to try the sour ale their friend is having, or maybe they'll try out that IPA everybody keeps talking about.
While most seltzers are gluten-free, Rusty Bull cannot guarantee gluten-free until more testing has been done. There's no gluten in the seltzer itself, but it's the same equipment they use to brew beer.
Bogstad and Mayer are clear in their desire to "focus on what people want and not just what makes us feel good." When asked if they had been drinking hard seltzer like so many others this summer, they concede it's "not something we've ever been huge into," but they saw a market in their front yard and couldn't resist the opportunity.
Initially, Rusty Bull was born out of a moment in which two friends looked at one another and thought: "Hey, we could do that." That started their brewing journey and that attitude continues to fuel the creative drive behind the business. The brewers stand behind their 1970s-FDA-citrus-experiment-flavored spiked seltzer, and are "always willing to be unconventional."