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How we’re killing craft beer classics: The death of Stone Ruination.

How we’re killing craft beer classics: The death of Stone Ruination.

In the past 24 hours since seeing the news of Ruination’s demise on Stone’s Facebook page and subsequently their blog post, I’ve experienced all of the five stages of grief:

Denial:  NO. No way they can do this, holy crap no.

Anger:  That’s really messed up. Ruination is an iconic beer with a 100 rating on Ratebeer and a world class rating on Beer Advocate. Idiots!

Bargaining:  Ok Stone, give me another chance. I’m going to my local beer store to buy some right now, ok? Ok?!??

Depression:  Ruination 2.0? Just not going to be the same. Man that really sucks.

And finally, acceptance:  Ok, I get it. Ruination was seeing some decline in numbers and 2.0 is bound to be amazing. Way to stay relevant guys.

Then, after acceptance finally sank in, a final feeling swept over me: guilt.

I started to think to myself. . .

When was the last time I sought out a four pack or bomber of Ruination?

And I honestly couldn’t remember.

Breweries do not casually make decisions about murdering iconic brands. It’s sad but true: Ruination is just not selling the way it once did. I’ve seen this scenario play out in my day to day as a sales rep, watching as we pick up out of date Ruination and are ultimately forced to replace it with some newer, special, or limited release. More than any other brewery, Stone is vigilant about the freshness of their beer (as evidenced by the brilliant Enjoy By brand and their own website where you can literally report out of date Stone beer you see in the market). But there’s only so much expired beer that a brewery can tolerate being dumped down the drain.

Stone Enjoy By dating

It’s not for lack of trying either. Stone attempted to bring Ruination back from the precipice with marketing strategies such as #RuinationDomination, a month where bars keep Ruination on draft for a month straight. Brands like Ruination are deserving of such respect and strategies like this remind people how awesome the beer is.

Despite such strategies, in the end, Ruination couldn’t be saved. I can’t even blame Stone for their decision. Actually, after thinking more I’m thrilled that the brewery is willing to change with the tides, because their flexibility and innovation will keep them at the top of the craft beer scene.

While Ruination 2.0 is bound to be a thing of beauty, I’m still sad to see my old friend go.

Ultimately we, the craft beer people, should accept the blame for her demise. It has been proven that many of us are fickle, polygamous creatures not wed to particular craft beer brands. While nothing is inherently wrong with this sentiment, next time you visit your local beer store simply consider the implications of your choices. Then imagine a world without Dogfish 60 Minute, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, North Coast Old Rasputin or any of the classic craft beers that are truly exceptional. Are these beers still relevant? I think so. I also think it’s important to show respect to these icons by occasionally picking up a six-pack or bomber, and sharing it with friends. Not only will you get to enjoy an amazing, classic beer, you might also be saving a life.

45 thoughts on “How we’re killing craft beer classics: The death of Stone Ruination.”

  • You mean I shouldn’t chase after every new “rare” beer release and should instead enjoy tested and proven beers available at my grocery store?

  • I… I… I feel like I’m losing a lover. I went to California a boy and left a man. I have many people and pours to thank for that… but none more unique, more bold and full of West Coast zeal than the Ruination.

    R.I.P my favorite I.P.A.

  • While sad to see it go, I think it’s a brilliant move to modify the recipe and rebrand. Many companies are in ‘rebranding’ phase right now. Stone just takes it to the next level with ‘killing a brand’ and reintroducing it. Shows the forward thinking IMO. Actually disappointed to see SSR getting pulled all together. Pioneer beer in ‘Black IPA’ category

  • Funny post (re: 5 stages of grief). Well done, as usual.

    I read the news on 3/20 as well via their newsletter. I may have had a bottle or two but certainly never bought a six pack in my relatively short foray (3 years) into craft beer. I’ve had quite a few Stone beers but apparently like many others I overlooked this one more often than not.

    However, I would disagree with this statement: “Ultimately we, the craft beer people, should accept the blame for her demise.”

    I don’t feel any blame. It had an amazing run by all accounts. Tastes and market landscapes change so it’s should be no surprise that products, even classics, eventually will get sunset. In fact, kudos to them for realizing that and making a change to meet the current market demands.

    Stone has a lot of product lines (guessing more than anyone else) that they continually push out (which is great) but as they release more & more it has to dilute other brands over time.

    I look forward to going out and picking up a 6 pack of Stone Pale Ale & Stone Ruination and enjoying it’s before it’s gone and then trying the 2.0 versions.

    If I wouldn’t have read their blog post, I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. So in that sense their marketing worked brilliantly. People will rush out and pick up the outstanding stock while they can and are now aware of the new products.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if years down the line it returns as a “Classic” line or something.

  • I think you could also make the argument that the demise of Ruination is partly Stone’s own (probably unintended) doing. As everyone races around and geeks out over the next new Stone limited release, they are actually driving their own fans away from beers such as Ruination. If I am a Stone fan and every time I go to the beer store there is some new goofy one-off on the shelf, I am inclined to buy it and skip over the “tried and true” regulars. I understand that you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to put out new things which means inevitably others must die if for no other reason than SKU management. However, if you put out ten new beers a year, you have to expect that will dilute your fan base for some of your other products a bit. If that is your business model then fine. Nothing wrong with that. You just have to hope that the number of new people you bring to the brand through all these new releases is greater than the number who leave the brand because you took away their favorites. Some breweries (like Stone) have reputations that will allow them to be successful this way (let’s face it, they could shit in a bottle and people will still line up for it). In the coming years you will see more and more of this as the more tenured breweries keep fighting to hold/grow their market share over the thousands of hip new start-ups that keep popping up everyday.

    • Well personally I would pass by Ruination in the store because most stores don’t properly store beers so the only time I buy Ruination or Stone IPA or any of those is if I am actually at Stone. Those beers when purchased there are amazing. Half of the time you buy one in the store even moderately fresh they have gone already. How Stone doesn’t restrict their sales to stores that properly refrigerate the product is beyond me. They make such a big fuss about properly refrigerating everything in transit and then sell to Costco and Bevmo even though most of the six packs or 12 packs are not stored properly on the shelf. The one four pack I had of ruination directly from Stone earlier this year was amazing.

  • I agree with Scott’s comment. Just last night I had a Stone Delicious IPA. Recently I’ve bought Stone IPA (6 pack) and Enjoy By 12/26 ( my birthday ). I feel like they tend to over-saturate their own line up with various IPA offerings. But all the same, I’ll try Ruination 2.0 and any other IPA they put out. And when they decide to shit in bottles and label it a limited edition IPA, I’ll probably buy that too!

  • I don’t have any particular heartburn about the shift. Stone has several great beers. I also think the variety taps into a well-researched phenomenon of behavioral economics. That unexpected reward of changes along side iconic options both encourages purchasing of the new thing and enables a comparison to beers we already like. PTY has been a major part of craft beer, but I had three IIIPA this year I didn’t have to sell a kidney for when the Younger hit handles. This evolution is good for the maturation of craft beer. This is true for the beer and for the industry as a whole. Nevertheless, solid article. I look forward to bookmarking your site

  • I see it as a partial victim of the craft beer geeks habit of always seeking out the newest and greatest next beer. It’s as if loyalty to any one brand or beer is almost unheard of. We all have our Ratebeer, Beer Advocate and Untappd numbers to brag about. It’s as if a brewery isn’t constant pushing out something new all the time they get forgotten. I have to admit I’ve been guilty of this too. I guess we have to try and remember the classic craft beers too when we’re out shopping.

  • Meh, another overly hopped, unpleasant to drink beer bites the dust. A severely hoppy beer used to be in the mid-30’s IBU. Now that’s a session beer for the west coast. breweries. PROTIP: rushing to have the most of a number is NOT GOOD BREWING. Remember the ABV wars of the 90s/00s? Continuous hopping just make a beer that bites like vinegar. People will pretend to like it because they’re told its good.

    Gimme a Trappist ale, please. Or a Rauchbier, or anything not so hopped its being chased by Elmer Fudd.

    • What a ridiculously arrogant argument, and it’s not even original. I’ve seen it before.
      Your premise is that your taste is so good and correct that anyone who likes something you don’t must be “pretending” b/c they were told to like it. Ridiculous. Plenty if people like IPA’s because they like them!
      People have “been told” that they should like Belgian and Trappist beers nearly as much as IPA. Do you seriously believe there aren’t bitter flavors and potentially unpleasant aftertastes in those styles? Would argue that someone who can’t stand yeasty and sour tasting ales is just pretending not to like them?

  • I must say to Michael. ..to each their own. A good trappist like the rochefort series is always a nice treat, but there is a difference between a well hopped palate wrecker and a bitter disaster. Ruination was a damn good beer. I’ll miss enjoying it but i can’t wait for the 2.0. ..knowing its stone it’s most likely gonna be good

  • Seems akin to comic book publishers constantly rebooting their series with new #1 issues or brands like Pizza Hut or Victoria’s Secret slightly modifying and repackaging existing products and presenting them as new…

  • If we’re to blame for Ruination’s death, then we should be credited for its birth.

    Brewers, like any business, produce what the market wants. I’d hate to see some of the iconic brands you mentioned go, but at the same time I would understand the business behind it.

    That being said, I’m all in favor or returning to the classics from time to time. Now, to go find a four-pack of Old Rasputin.

  • I agree 100% we are to blame, but not in a negative connotation, rather a positive one. Our tastes are growing and we yearn for new experiences, so Stone is reacting to that market instead of pulling a Sam Adams which is great. Most beer folks I know will rarely buy a 6 pack of beer now because they crave variety and unique Untappd check ins (who is also to blame). Also, I believe their Enjoy By lineup has really taught them about the market’s craving for variety, they make the same beer with a slightly different recipe for each release and people are just loving it. Good write up!

  • By this logic, make sure you every once in awhile pick up a 6 pack of Bud Light too. Wouldn’t want to see such an iconic beer go extinct either.

  • I am going to agree with Michael above. Yes, the end of just another overly hopped, high viscosity ale. This is just the beginning of the end for many brands. The intention of the craft brewers was to be as different from the major breweries as they could be. This was accomplished through the use of more of the basic ingredients like malt and hops and the addition of “exotic” adjuncts in an effort to be unique. And what do we observe? Everybody makes overly hopped IPA´s which are totally interchangeable in aroma and flavor and entirely indistinguishable from one another. Yes, I can hear the cries already: “my favorites all taste really unique.” No, you cannot identify them in blind tastings any more than the light beer drinker can differentiate between Bud Light and Coors Light. So which brand do you buy and which brands will survive? Just like with the big guys, it will come down to image and marketing. There is a huge shakeout coming to the craft beer market and it is not going to be pretty. There are just too many players in the game.

    • You can totally taste the difference between IPA’s you can also taste the difference between domestics. I’ve done it myself many times to prove the very point that yes you can tell what beer was brewed by who.. Providing you’ve tasted it before at some point and have good memory..

  • They’ve got you all fooled. “Ahead of the curve they are,” says Yoda. Stone is not changing anything but the name. Ruination = Ruination 2.0 …And we’re all going to love it again. I already know what 3.0 is going to taste like.

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  • Stone ruination is my favorite of all time. I always go try new IPA’s and always resort back to Stone Ruination. I was bummed to her that they were getting rid of Sublimely Self-Righteous IPA since I did love it. I admit That I did not purchase it as much but I actually buy Ruination regularly and it makes me sad to hear that it is going away.

  • My local pub tapped one of the last few kegs of Ruination yesterday (4/14) in celemournation of Ruination Day. It is a delicious beer but what I’ve found, in San Diego at least, is that other breweries are making even better. Ballast Point, Societe, AleSmith are creating beers that justify the replacement of some of Stone’s brews. I don’t know if you can get these brews where you live but if you can find them on tap they are outstanding.

    I do wish that Stone would keep the name so that Ruination Day can become an annual celebration. If you aren’t familiar with Ruination day then google “ruination day gillian welch”.

  • Ruination was probably my first DIPA, and I almost couldn’t palate it (just like my first beer, and later, first IPA). Then I grew to love it. Then, eventually, it got old. The nature of the American (I)IPA style is to constantly evolve, usually by way of using the new, “it” hop, from Simcoe, then to Citra, then to Mosaic, and now whatever hard to come by Aussie/NZ varietals.

    Ruination has fallen victim to the same fate of many a once sought-after beer, in that when it came out, it was a dazzler, and set a new bar; but over the years its relevance waned, as it remained stuck in its own recipe standardization. While I (briefly) mourn the loss of Ruination, I don’t think it’s a bad move for Stone to live and let die.

    I drank a lot of Ruination in its day, but sadly, I haven’t had it or even desired it in five years. But in (the beginning, and up to) the bitter end, Ruination could never be as good as Pliny. Sorry to the disagreers, but I had to go there.

  • Dear stone, why on earth would you stop selling ruination and replace it with another beer called ruination 2.0? Ruination has a loyal following, keep selling it (scale back production if you have to). You brew over 100 beers!!! The other (non-ipa nor stout) styles of beer you brew don’t even come close to the level of ruination. Call this new beer something else. Don’t piss off your loyal customers for something so trivial and short sighted. -former loyal ruination fan

  • why change a stalwart, even after 15 years of abusing my palate with various dipas, to points beyond which discrimination failed, the super spruce laden dryness of Ruination was an easy identification and supremely worthy

  • Sitting here drinking a ruination 2.0 – it’s not the same! I didn’t expect it to be, but it’s not even close! Your original ruination is my absolute favorite beer. I have bought out the city of Richmond with the remnants. Even buying expired beer because that even still tastes better than any ipa I’ve ever had. Please bring it back, at least for limited release. You shouldn’t replace a solid beer with something so fruity. Just make another variety and give it a new name. I love ruination. I refuse to say goodbye.

  • Spot on with this write-up, I really believe this amazing site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more,
    thanks for the information!

  • Just opened a bottle of this that had laid down for two years. It was unforgettable. Went back to get more. Maybe that is part of the problem. Last time I bought it was two years ago!

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