Ska Brewing, based in Durango, Colo., made headlines last week for announcing the death of one of its signature brews, the Ten Pin Porter. The announcement and the details of the “memorial service” were pretty funny. Here is a sample:
“Ten Pin Porter will be missed,” said Ska Co-Founder Dave Thibodeau. “He was the third beer we ever brewed — he meant the world to me. When you’d crack him open, you always knew he’d love you back. Unconditionally. Right now, we’re just focused on getting people together to remember the good times, and say our final goodbyes to a great beer.”
Family and friends are invited to come by Ska and pay their respects on Black Friday — services will include an open casket ceremony. Mourners will also be able to get in some early holiday shopping, as all draft dark beers and black-colored merchandise at Ska World Headquarters will be marked down by 20 percent on that day.
But underneath the tongue-in-cheek fun is an interesting business decision with some actual emotions involved. How does a brewer know when it is time to say good bye to a beer, especially one like the Ten Pin that has been around since 1996? Production issues? Sales? A change in brewing identity? We followed up with Thibodeau for a peek at the decision-making process, and turns out the answer was all of the above.
“The decision was triggered by a combination of things,” he said. “At any given point we have 15 different beers in the market. If we wanted to be able to keep up with our overall growth, and we wanted to be able to keep doing the fun smaller stuff, [barrel-aged, one-offs, collaborations our Local Series], then we had to make some room somewhere.
“Ten Pin was in a position where we sold enough of it that we brewed it a lot, but we didn’t sell quite enough of it that it fit neatly in a regular production schedule. We didn’t want to back off on any of the smaller stuff — in fact we’d like to do more of the barrel-aged and Local Series, etc., so this is where we made the cut.
“Also, we’re not as focused on the English-style beers that we wanted to brew when we started 18 years ago. If we were to put a porter back in the regular lineup someday, we might want it to be a little different than the restrained, medium-bodied style that defined Ten Pin.”
When we asked if this was just a ploy for next year’s Halloween when a ghost Ten Pin Porter rises from its grave and haunts us all, the team indicated the answer was definitely no (but that it might be an idea for another day).
Ten Pin Porter is survived by a nephew, Steel Toe Stout, a brother, Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter, and four cousins, known collectively as the Seasonal Stouts.