Stone Brewing to Launch New Session IPA on March 3

For years Stone Brewing has touted its aggressively hopped, high-octane brews, even going so far as to tell consumers that they “probably won’t like it.”

The San Diego-based brewery is by no means abandoning its affinity for boozy bombers, but it is joining a growing faction of U.S. brewers pushing craft beer drinkers towards more sessionable, lower-alcohol product offerings.

In fairness, Stone has brewed its 4.4 percent session-strength red ale, Levitation, since 2002, but now the company is joining the likes of Founders Brewing, Lagunitas, Boulevard Brewing and even Boston Beer (via its Alchemy & Science outfit) as the latest craft beer company to introduce a “session IPA.”

The 4.5 percent ‘Go To IPA’, as the company is calling it, is slated for a national rollout next month and Todd Karnig, Stone’s vice president of sales, has promised it will be one of the company’s “biggest releases in the last two years.”

“We are working with our distributors to have a robust rollout,” he said. “There will be strong point of sale efforts and we’ve been coordinating distributors and brewery reps in the field to make sure there are plenty of events associated with it.”

While there will no doubt be a strong push behind the new product, Karnig said the company hasn’t set any specific sales or production goals

Stone sold 213,277 barrels in 41 states last year and founder Greg Koch said the company is aiming for a year of at least 20 percent growth. Fueling much of the growth in 2014 will be Stone’s three best-selling beers — IPA, Arrogant Bastard and Pale Ale — which together represent about 75 percent of production.

But if the release of Go To IPA goes anything like Founders’ introduction of All Day IPA — which in just one year has grown to become 27 percent of that company’s business — Stone could be looking at a significant source of new volume.

“We want to make sure that, as we come out, we can meet the demand of the fans,” Karnig said. “We aren’t putting any levels of volume on it and we will just see how it goes in the marketplace, but I think it will be pretty significant.”

Go To IPA will be available in 6-packs and on draft starting March 3 and will be priced in-line ($9.99 – $10.99) with other core offerings, Karnig said.

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