Good Beer Hunting

Lagunitas Brews Up a Special Beer for Buffalo Wild Wings

Casual chicken giant Buffalo Wild Wings is expanding its craft beer program with a little help from one of the industry’s biggest purported corporate rebels. Lagunitas is brewing Fandom Ale for the restaurant chain, now available on tap at all 1,200-plus Buffalo Wild Wings locations for a limited time. The beer also serves as the 39th addition to Lagunitas’ Fusion series, but the first entry to be made available in every state, according to a press release.

Since selling off a 50% stake to Heineken, Lagunitas has been busy itself as a buyer, forging business partnerships with an emphasis on locality. This past June, the Petaluma, CA staple announced it had acquired stakes in three separate breweries—Independence Brewing (Texas), Moonlight Brewing (California), and Southend Brewery and Smokehouse (South Carolina), the last of which with the intent to rebrand as a Lagunitas brewpub. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune at the time, company founder Tony Magee explained the investments thusly: “Craft beer is becoming increasingly local in focus…as a way to become more local, some breweries are building remote brewpubs.” 
But the part of that quote left out, glossed over here with an ellipses, better explains the company’s new partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings: “There will always be room for a number of brands to be national—with Lagunitas, that’s what we’re aiming for.” 
In these two separate endeavors—investing in breweries one day and serving as a hired gun for Buffalo Wild Wings the next—exists the clearest expression of Lagunitas burning the candle at both ends. That is, the company is working to strengthen its local ties (in markets non-local to Petaluma no less), while simultaneously feeding its newfound corporate appetite.
We’d be remiss to leave out that it seems Lagunitas is also willing to bend its will a bit to satiate that corporate appetite. Per a statement from the restaurant chain, Fandom Ale was “designed with the sports fan in mind.” Of course, "sports fan” here is code for “Buffalo Wild Wings customer.” And when those customers were surveyed, they showed favoritism to certain beers, “specifically wheat beers and pale ales,” according to the company. Fandom Ale is being described as a “hoppy pale wheat ale.”

—Dave Eisenberg