This Could Be a Game Changer for Buffalo Wild Wings


With the craft beer movement in full swing, is the world ready to embrace yet another delicious brew?

Buffalo Wild Wings investors sure hope so, because Monday marked the official debut of the company's new "Game Changer Ale," which was created with the help of the folks at Redhook Brewery.

Image source: Buffalo Wild Wings (cropped for size)

For those of you keeping track, remember that Redhook has stood proud as a part of Craft Brew Alliance since it merged with Widmer Brothers Brewing in 2008.

So how did this all come about? According to a recent Today interview with Patrick Kirk, who maintains the completely awesome title from B-Wild as "director of beverage innovations," the company has "always talked about creating a Buffalo Wild Wings beer, and as we pursued it, we realized we needed someone to work with."

Then, when B-Wild figured out Redhook was already working on creating a "sports bar-friendly brew," it was a match made in heaven.

After all, considering Buffalo Wild Wings serves more draft beer than any other restaurant chain in America, who would know better how to help Redhook realize what works great with sports bar food?

That said, while the brewery isn't obligated to make the beer exclusive to Buffalo Wild Wings, Redhook representatives were kind enough to state "Given the role Buffalo Wild Wings had in the process, we'll be giving the majority of resources to them."

Not the first of its kind
Of course, this isn't the first time specialty beer has assimilated more closely into larger restaurant chains.

Remember, last year Red Robin Gourmet Burgers partnered with Boston Beer Company to eliminate the need for diners to choose between beer and a shake with their Sam Adams Oktoberfest Milkshake. Putting aside the potential negative post-dinner repercussions of mixing beer with a shake -- oof, I'm breathing heavy just thinking about it -- this was still a pretty fun collaborative idea which meshed well with Red Robin's atmosphere.

That said, while it's safe to say the Oktoberfest Milkshake was a relative success for both Red Robin and Boston Beer (at least from a public relations perspective, anyway), I can't imagine the product had any significant long-term positive effects from a financial standpoint.

More closely aligned with B-Wild's new efforts, however, are the folks at BJ's Restaurants , who just so happen to integrate their very own enviable list of more than a dozen of BJ's award-winning, handcrafted brews on tap at each of their restaurants. All told, craft brews have served as a centerpiece of BJ's business so far, helping the up-and-coming company to grow to 132 locations in 15 states as of the end of last quarter.

In all, that leaves plenty of room for BJ's restaurants to grow en route to management's goals of eventually having as many as 425 domestic locations.

Here's why Game Changer Ale could be huge
The thing is, Buffalo Wild Wings already has a sticky business model with which hungry consumers tend to resonate, and adding its own specialty brew to the ranks of the dozens of beers it already serves should only help diners love the popular chain even more than they do now.

This, in turn, should help Buffalo Wild Wings accelerate its pursuit of new restaurant growth, even with 923 current total locations in 49 states and in Canada. When all is said and done, remember B-Wild management hopes to eventually operate as many as 1,700 total locations between the U.S. and Canada alone.

Foolish takeaway
Of course, this growth potential is one of the very things which makes Buffalo Wild Wings so enticing from an investment standpoint in the first place. If the company can simply continue steadily growing its restaurant base, while simultaneously doing what it does so well in delighting its patrons, there's every reason to believe patient shareholders should be rewarded handsomely over the long run.

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Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BJ's Restaurants, Boston Beer, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. The Motley Fool owns shares of BJ's Restaurants, Boston Beer, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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