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Buffalo Wild Wings to debut Game Changer craft beer

Buffalo Wild Wings to debut Game Changer craft beer

Company hopes to increase beer margins with in-house brew

Buffalo Wild Wings will roll out its long-awaited Game Changer craft beer on tap at all of its 925-plus locations on July 15.

The beer is a pale ale with an amber color, and it will be available only on tap at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants. However, a brand representative clarified that the beer, developed with Buffalo Wild Wings’ customers in mind by Woodinville, Wash.-based Redhook Brewery, could possibly be sold at Redhook’s other accounts in the future.

“We’re all about wings, beer and sports, and we are always looking for new offerings to enhance the guest experience at our restaurants,” Kathy Benning, the chain’s executive vice president of global marketing, brand and business development, said in a statement. “Our guests, above all, are sports fans, and they’re looking for that social environment to enjoy the game with their friends. We’re excited to offer the Game Changer, knowing that it was created with them in mind.”

As one of the largest beer-focused casual-dining brands in the United States, Buffalo Wild Wings offers more than 50 brands of beer, including 30 craft labels, the company said. Company officials have previously discussed their intentions to sell more craft beers, citing favorable price points and growing popularity among consumers.

Buffalo Wild Wings first disclosed the beer’s development during its first-quarter earnings call in April. At the time, chief executive Sally Smith noted that the chain had expanded its draught beer tap handles from 24 to 30 in many restaurants to accommodate customers’ demand for more national and regional craft beers.

While profit margins on Game Changer are not expected to rise higher than normal draught beer margins, the brand hopes that producing its own craft variety with Redhook would allow it to price the beer competitively, she added.

“Certainly part of our goal is improving beer margins, which has been difficult in the last couple of years with continued price increases from manufacturers and distributors,” Smith said. “The thought is that we can price this somewhere between domestic and imported draught beer with probably similar margins to our domestic draft beer.”

During the NRA Show in May, Buffalo Wild Wings’ director of beverage and guest experience, Patrick Kirk, said servers would be trained extensively on the facets of Game Changer in order to suggest it and up-sell it to customers. “With so many craft beers now that have hit the market and the attention to quality, that’s a lot of things you want your consumers to know and understand,” he explained. “In this case, we are going to be blitzing our customers with every single aspect of this beer. … We’re still managing the basics, but we’re hoping that people really get into this and really drive trial of this.”

Game Changer’s 4.6-percent alcohol-by-volume content also would allow customers to enjoy several draughts during a visit to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch a sporting event, Andy Thomas, president of commercial operations for Redhook parent Craft Brew Alliance Inc., said in a statement.

“It’s an approachable craft beer that’s not too heavy or too high in alcohol, so people can enjoy drinking it responsibly over the course of a whole game,” he said. “Game Changer’s unique story gives sports fans a new craft beer with the authenticity of a Redhook brew."

Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. operates or franchises restaurants in 49 states and Canada.

Correction: July 2, 2013  An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the Game Changer beer as proprietary to Buffalo Wild Wings. A brand representative clarified that Redhook Brewery could sell the beer to other accounts in the future.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

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