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Wine-Ing Over Big Beer Bottles

Monday, 11 Mar 2013 | 2:21 PM ET
Eddie Berman | Vetta | Getty Images

Six things that have consumers buzzing in the world of beer, wine and spirits this week, including craft beer in big bottles, Heineken revamps its iconic green bottle and the top-selling craft brands at supermarkets in 2012.

1. Whining Over Big Beer Bottles: Every now and then a moment occurs that touches a nerve and gets the beer community buzzing. A recent article in The New York Times titled "Craft Beer's Larger Aspirations Cause a Stir" has created one of those moments. In the piece, author Clay Risen writes about craft brewers putting their beers in bigger bottles. Risen said, "The trend toward large bottles is part of what is being called the "wine-ification" of beer, the push by many brewers to make their product as respectable to pair with braised short ribs as is a nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and at a price to match. Bottles sell for as much as $30 in stores and much more on restaurant menus."

Boom. The reaction within the beer community was fast and largely furious. Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver was one of many who responded to take issue with the article. He asked the New York Times to open the article to comments, which it did. You can see the comments, including Oliver's here. Oliver also addressed the issue over at CraftBeer.com. Noted beer writer Jay Brooks was also among those who took issue with the piece by highlighting historical examples of how beer in big bottles is nothing new.

2. A New Bayless Brew: Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless is expanding his reach into the beer business. The Chicago-based chef is partnering with Crown Imports, which distributes the top-selling import in the U.S., Grupo Modelo's Corona Extra brand. According to Ad Age, the Bayless brew "is still nameless and the style has not been determined." Bayless is already taking heat from some beer lovers who say he should have partnered with a Chicago-based craft brewer and not a national company. It's not Bayless' first foray into beer, he previously teamed with Goose Island Brewing to create a beer which is served in his Frontera Grill restaurant in Chicago.

3. Heineken Unveils a New Star in the U.S.: For the first time since 1947, Heineken is making a change to its iconic green bottle. The new "Star Bottle" is taller and sleeker than its predecessor and is already available in 170 markets around the world. The bottle is now being rolled-out nationally in the U.S. To mark the occasion, Heineken is debuting a new national television ad. As described by Heineken officials: "Dj Vu" follows the story of "a man traveling the world, visiting bars and clubs of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, then Lagos, Nigeria, before finally arriving in New York City, where he finally gets his hands on the Heineken Star Bottle. Like the new Star Bottle, he has made an impression all over the world."

4. Finally, Sandy Does Some Good: Some good news has finally come from Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast in October. New Jersey based Flying Fish Brewery has tallied the sales from its limited edition special brew, "Forever Unloved (F.U.) Sandy" and the beer has raised $45,000. Based on customer suggestions, Flying Fish has picked three state-wide charities that will receive $15,000 each: Habitat for Humanity, The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund and The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

5. Crafting a Liquor License: Liquor laws are complicated and the process of obtaining a liquor license can be a tricky one. A Chicago-based convenience store said it has struck a deal to obtain a license to sell alcohol in an interesting way: by limiting the sale of alcohol to craft beers.

According to DNAInfo.com, the owner of Garden Gourmet Market has worked out an agreement with a local politician to sell "Only single servings of cans or bottles of beer produced by breweries defined as 'craft brewers' by the Brewers Association." The agreement would specifically prohibit hard liquor, "fortified wines" such as Wild Irish Rose and Night Train, malt liquors such as Colt 45 and Cobra and "other products that are intended to provide high-alcohol content at a low price." By sticking to the Brewers Association definition, the guideline would also presumably prohibit Budweiser brands and crafty brands like Miller Coors' Blue Moon.

6. Supermarket Sales: Supermarkets are becoming an important part of the growth of the craft beer industry. According to market research firm Symphony IRI, craft beer sales at multi-outlet stores rose 17.1 percent in 2012 from 2011, in terms of dollar sales. But which beers are consumers most often putting into their shopping carts? According to Symphony IRI, the top craft beer brands sold iin supermarkets in 2012 were:

  1. Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA $2.6 million
  2. Pyramid Outburst Imperial IPA $2.5 million
  3. New Belgium Shift Pale Lager $2.2 million
  4. Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA $2.1 million
  5. Bridgeport Beervana $714,000
  6. Sierra Nevada High Altitude Series $682,000
  7. Kona Big Wave Golden Ale $644,000
  8. Founders All Day IPA $485,000
  9. Elysian Bete Blanche Triple Ale $485,000
  10. CBA Seasonal Variety Pack $450,000

-By CNBC's Tom Rotunno; Follow him on Twitter @TomRotunno;

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com.

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