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VOL. 056

How to Line Extend (while maintaining your audience's trust).


We had a great question come in from a subscriber and I wanted to field it here.

Feel free to shoot me an email if you have a question that you’d like us to tackle on the newsletter or podcast.

(*Note, I've anonymized this email a touch, so apologies if it reads kind of weird. That's on me and not the sender.)

Hi, Isaac.

Our brewery has a popular Hazy IPA Sub Brand with an Imperial Line Extension. We've heard from our customers, and seen in taproom trials, that people want more variations of this beer. 

After reading your Sub Brand Summer series, our team has been toying with the idea of pushing this brand even further, possibly beyond the IPA category (would that be a Brand Extension?).

We're not sure how far we want to get away from IPAs (or if we should at all), but would like to release seasonal variants under this Sub Brand, as Line Extensions, that riff on this brand—so a wheat in the summer, a Märzen in fall, etc. 

And that brings us to our issue: Our team is split completely down the middle on this. One half thinks we shouldn't create any non-IPA beers under this brand, and the other half (which includes me), thinks we've built the brand to be broad enough that we could expand it to offer a more diverse range of styles. 

We’ve seen a few other brands do this: Dale’s Pale Ale > Dale’s Lager and Voodoo Ranger > Voodoo Ranger Hard Tea. 

I know we can do this, but want to make sure we're not setting ourselves up for some bigger issue down the line.

What do you think? 

– Jamie

This is an interesting question and one that I think more breweries should think about as they continue to build and scale Sub Brands within their portfolios. 

Let's start with some quick definitions and then dive into this.

A Line Extension is a strategy for extending a brand within the same family or category. This is usually done with a new flavor, style or seasonal variant. (e.g. Sculpin, Grapefruit Sculpin, Aloha Sculpin)

A Brand Extension is when you use your brewery’s name on any product in a non-beer category. (e.g. Dogfish Head Brewing > Dogfish Head Distilling)

For Jamie’s question specifically, these new releases would be Line Extensions since they still fall within the beer category (though I understand her confusion since they are considering venturing into different beer styles).

If she wanted to push this brand into an RTD cocktail, or some other non-beer category, then this would be a Brand Extension.

(Above, Top): Line Extension examples from Ballast Point.

(Above, Bottom): Brand Extension examples from Dogfish Head and Rogue Ales & Spirits.

There are no hard and fast rules here, but I will offer a few thoughts. 

Be careful not to reposition, or dilute, what your Sub Brand stands for

One of our main through lines in The Beyond Beer Handbook was that you can launch extensions, but not at the expense of your parent brand’s reputation and positioning.

Your parent brand is your most important asset and needs to be protected at all times, especially when leveraging it to launch new products. 

This isn’t meant to steer you away from releasing new products. Far from it. But it is a warning to take this all seriously. 

And we should apply this same line of thinking to extending your Sub Brand.

Your (Sub) Brand has specific connotations and values (and messaging, positioning, voice and personality), no different than your parent brand.

And the beer style itself—in this case, a Hazy IPA and an Imperial Line Extension—can be a big part of this overall perception.

So we should treat these sorts of decisions like any other Brand Architecture consideration.

– What does releasing this product (say, a Märzen) say about your parent brand (or in this case, the Hazy IPA Sub Brand)?

– Can my Sub Brand credibly release this new variant? Does it align with what your Sub Brand is known for?

– Will releasing this product tied to your Sub Brand brand help or hinder the Sub (or parent) Brand?

– Are you reaching out to your existing audience or branching out to new drinkers with this new product?

– Could this new release cannibalize sales from the original brand (or any other brands in your portfolio)? 

If your Sub Brand is primarily known as an IPA brand, then IPA extensions (hazy, imperial, west coast, etc.) will be an easier leap than a non-IPA style extension.

Again, this doesn’t mean this isn’t possible.

But you have to carefully weigh the upside, and downside, of the move. 

​Can incremental growth be enough to offset any potential longterm damage / confusion you cause to your Sub Brand by extending into a new style?

(Above): The Beverage Extension Assessment Tool (B.E.A.T.) will help you navigate these sorts of decisions.


Trust is a precious commodity

Your brand, and brand identity, is an assurance that you’ll always deliver.

Your word is bond; a promise.

Your brand is your reputation. And with thousands of options a beer drinker has to choose from today, your reputation is more important than ever. 

Allow me to set a dramatic scene for you to illustrate the risk of Line Extending beyond your Sub Brand's style, and how this can break your brand's promise and harm your reputation.



Maddie has been a loyal customer of yours ever since releasing your XYZ hazy IPA brand. (It's what introduced her to IPAs in the first place.)

She's been happily buying every variant you’ve released for the last few years.

And this Thursday afternoon is no different, as she grabs your new 6-pk from Kroger along with a few odds and ends she needs for this weekend's meals.  

Later that evening, after dinner (and baths, and reading, and story time) and *finally* getting her daughter to bed, she slips downstairs to have a drink and plan for tomorrow. 

She grabs a can from the fridge, cracks it open and takes a long draw and WHAT THE XXXX IS THIS?!? 

She looks at the label and sees that this isn't the Hazy IPA she's accustomed to.

It's not even a West Coast IPA. Upon further inspection, it’s… a… Sour Ale?

Maddie finishes the can because she’s a hard working mom and was looking forward to her night cap. But she won't be drinking the rest. 

And the next time around, she won't be so open to buying what you're selling. 

This brief moment—an important ritual for her—was a let down.

A broken promise. 

Your brand failed to deliver what it has worked so hard to stand for in Maddie's mind.

*end scene*



You get my point here: Your brand, including your Sub or Endorsed Brands stand for something in people's minds.

And beer style—along with guardrails around what’s allowed and not allowed from an accepted flavor profile standpoint—is a big part of this.

It's important to give your customers great products and service that live up to their expectations.

(Above): A few examples of Sub Brands that have ventured beyond their original style.

Sierra Nevada's Little Thing started out as a Hazy IPA brand and has grown to include a Sour Ale, a Wheat Ale and a Light Lager.

Oskar Blue's Dale's Brand has been retooled as a Sub Brand and now includes their eponymous Pale Ale as well as a Double IPA and a Light Lager. (Over/under on seeing a Dale's Hard Tea in 2024?)

Let’s now look at a few of the examples Jamie mentioned, including Dale’s and Voodoo Ranger, as well as a few other Sub Brands that have expanded beyond their initial style.

– Sierra Nevada's Little Thing line (a hazy IPA brand family) extended to include a Wheat Beer, a Light Lager and a Sour Ale.

– New Belgium's Voodoo Ranger (an IPA brand family) extended to include a Light Lager, a Hard Tea and a pumpkin beer.

And if you want to really get in the weeds, we could even count their Fruit Force as an entirely different style (IPA used to stand for something, man).

– Oskar Blues expanded Dale's from its flagship Pale Ale to include an Imperial IPA and Light Lager extensions. 

A few notes on these: 


On Dale's 

Oskar Blues is actively Scaling the Sub Brand Ladder by spinning the Dale's Sub Brand into its own brand family.

​A quick snapshot of this move: 

– They've bumped Dale's up to the Sub Brand level (acting as its own parent brand).

– They've Line Extended with two new variants (an Double IPA and a Light Lager), in addition to their flagship Pale Ale. 

– They've also created a standalone Dale's website, social channels and hashtag.

– And I suspect that they will have Dale's-specific sales reps and ABPs in the coming years, separate from their overarching Oskar Blue's programs, (if they don't already). 

This is a good move right now, or at least it's in-line with what we're seeing some of our biggest clients, and the largest breweries in the country building today. 

The big challenge for Oskar Blues is whether or not they'll be able to break nearly 30 years of people associating Dale's with Pale Ale (say it out loud, it's actually hard to not automatically finish the name: Dale's…).

(Above): A handful of Voodoo Ranger Line and Brand Extensions.


On Voodoo Ranger

Voodoo Ranger is in a choice position where they've grown so successfully, that a lot of these seemingly weird choices (pumpkin, light lager, hard tea) are likely just their team exploring where they can credibly take the brand. 

As an example, I'm not sure the Voodoo Ranger Devilishly Light Lager ever made it out of trial. (And if this is the case, I’m going to bet that’s not because the quality of the beer, but that the positioning ended up not aligning with the broader Voodoo brand. Not to mention how challenging the light lager segment is).

At this point, Voodoo Ranger is its own brand that has eclipsed New Belgium in every metric that matters.

Yes, there's a small New Belgium Endorsement on pack, but I imagine that this has no real bearing on people's purchasing decisions in 2024.

I think of Voodoo Ranger as an IPA brand, but I imagine they're known more for flavor, novelty, high ABV and fun branding (and brand voice) than that style alone.

In other words, if it hasn't already, Voodoo Ranger has transcended style and become a Lifestyle Brand

Again, Voodoo Ranger has the credibility and license to play in whatever categories it wants.

And right now, hard tea is a good bet. (Especially in the convenience channel where they already dominate.)

And if this is the case, that gives their team more freedom to extend into other emergent categories, and do so at scale.

So does a Voodoo Ranger hard tea make sense?  

That's up to Voodoo Ranger drinkers (many of whom are younger and looking for more flavorful, novel, higher ABV options) to decide. 



We've been talking about behind the scenes Brand Strategy and Brand Architecture stuff today, but it's important to not lose sight of your customers in all this.

And especially so with any sort of extension.

​If you're considering a move like this, pause and ask yourself:

Is a —— drinker a —— drinker?

– Is a Voodoo Ranger drinker a Hard Tea drinker? 

– Is a Dale’s Pale Ale drinker a Light Lager drinker?

– Is a Hazy Little Thing drinker a Sour Ale drinker? 

If you think so, and it won't affect your Sub Brand's positioning, then you can move forward and Line Extend with confidence.

Around the Shop

CODO Design is speaking at CBC!

Cody and I have been selected to host a seminar at CBC this year titled "Leverage your brand or start a new one? Brand Architecture strategies for growing your business."

Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and would like to grab a beer and talk shop and/or discuss working together.

Nice article on CODO client Forest Road Brewing

Here's a cool feature on how Forest Road Brewing bought Russian River's brewhouse and then shipped it all the way around the world to London.

It's wild that this happened. And wilder still that the entire plan actually worked and they're now kicking out some of the best beer in the UK. 

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

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