Flexibility: Real Options

I have written in the past about the growth in the craft beer market and how strong it is. This would appear to indicate a low level of market uncertainty.  While there are many new combinations that result in great new beers coming to market, there is little substantive change to the brewing process itself, indicating relatively low technical uncertainty as well. In looking at the McGrath and MacMillan model, this would seem to indicate breweries should stick to enhancement launches, or in other words, incremental changes to current offerings. New Belgium has certainly done this over the years by expanding their different beers and slowly expanding from their home base in Colorado to distribute further and further away. Recently they made a big leap more like a stepping stone option that would give them many new options for expansion going forward, by building a second brewery in Ashville, NC. While the technical and market level of uncertainty would seem to indicate this might not be a great move according to the McGrath and MacMillan model, New Belgium is not the first growing craft brewery to make this leap. Another west coast brewery, Stone Brewing, opened two new breweries in 2014 and 2015, one in Richmond, VA and one in Berlin, Germany. Like New Belgium, Stone is a fast growing independent brewer who is known for very unique beers. This week we learned that Stone experienced a setback and will be laying off approximately 5% of their workforce. Maybe this is unique to Stone’s situation and only time will tell whether New Belgium will experience similar issues after their new east coast location comes online.

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