Perhaps calling a it a Black IPA was not such a good idea after all? Stone Brewing’s admittedly tasty Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA (that should have been called a CDA) has been discontinued, along with the terrific Levitation Ale, an underrated dry-hopped session amber ale. It’s sad any time good beer does not make it in the marketplace, and both of these beers were high quality. I am still admittedly less sad about the “Black IPA” (*ahem* Cascadian Dark Ale) because I always thought the Levitation Ale was great–hoppier then you would expect for an amber ale, it was a session beer before they became popular. If any beer needed a rebranding, that was it. This isn’t just about Stone, though; with a huge variety of craft beers being launched from new breweries to just new seasonals and one-offs from existing breweries and the discerning beer drinker’s thirst for more variety, there will be a lot more casualties. Brand loyalty is at an all-time low; with the risk of a trademark cease and desist or an overcarbonated bottle recall being all that is necessary for hundreds or thousands of people to jump ship to the next new brewery.
Stone’s Brandon Hernández writes, “Without a doubt, this will disappoint some of our fans. We know because we’re bummed, too, but the bottom line is that the sales of these two beers just don’t support the ability to keep them in our full-time lineup. These days, our fans are telling us what they really want by focusing their hard-earned dollars on our other beers. It is what it is. You spoke.”
Cascadian Dark Ale is a popular old subject on The New School. We have not touched on in a while, but back during the Black IPA/CDA wars, many of the best Oregon brewers chose the CDA descriptor, from Hopworks changing the name of its Secession Black IPA to Secession CDA, Oakshire’s O’ Dark:30, and Deschutes Hop in the Dark CDA. Some would argue that none of these were as good as the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous, yet they are all still being produced. Still, the popularity of the style has clearly died down, with a million other versions of IPA being popularized like the Session IPA, Rye IPA, White IPA, and even Chocolate IPA the latest trendy things.
Amber ales have been declining in popularity for a while–just as session IPAs may be at the peak of their popularity–so it’s sad to see Levitation Ale go the way of the Dodo, because it could have easily been rebranded as a session IPA or maybe a session red IPA. I would argue Levitation is much tastier than Stone’s new Go To Session IPA.
At a recent beer industry networking meeting at Bridgeport Brewing, fans bemoaned the discontinued Blue Heron Pale Ale and ESB, yet clearly the sales did not back them up. A Bridgeport representative responded that if you liked the Blue Heron, show your support by drinking the new Conviction Pale Ale. So will beer drinkers continue to abandon the classic brands or will the tide turn when drinkers return to the tried and true favorites? How strong is your conviction?