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Six Pack: Beer Buzz of the Week

Friday, 20 Jul 2012 | 2:22 PM ET

Six things that have consumers buzzing in the world of beer, wine and spirits as we head into the weekend:

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File this under: “If you can beat them, join them.” As sales of craft beer surged over the last few years, despite a decline in the overall beer category, the larger brewers have struggled to find a way to connect with consumers. Now Budweiser says it is testing six “small batch” beers in a summer-long, nationwide sampling effort. Consumers will help Budweiser narrow the six beers down to three for inclusion in a limited-edition sampler pack that will be available for purchase this fall. The program is called “Project 12,” after the twelve Anheuser-Busch brewmasters at Budweiser’s 12 geographically dispersed breweries who originally began the project. Each small-batch beer will be distinguished by the ZIP code where the beer is brewed. The locations that are still in the running for a fall release: Los Angeles; Baldwinsville, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis; Ft. Collins, Colo.; and Williamsburg, Va. Geographic-themed beers are nothing new to Bud. The company recently filed for trademarks of dozens of airport codes and Goose Island Brewing, an Anheuser-Busch Inbev-owned brewer based in Chicago, has had a longtime hit with its 312 Urban Wheat Ale.

2. Keystone Light Scores With Steve Nash: It’s the type of viral video that companies try desperately to create. One of the biggest stars in the NBA, Steve Nash, recently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, is riding in a vehicle on a California highway when he is recognized by a group of young fans riding in another vehicle. One of the passengers in the other vehicle reaches out and hands Nash a Keystone Light. Nash, who has been videotaping the events, turns the camera to himself and says, “The fans have been pretty good so far.” While it may seem too good to be true, the Keystone Light team says it had nothing to do with it, releasing a statement saying: “We have seen the video and have been watching it go viral. While we can take credit for the “Always Smooth” taste of Keystone Light, we had absolutely nothing to do with this.”

3. Who Has the Allen Wrench Bottle Opener?: Ikea, which generally aims for simplicity in its products (putting them together is a different story) is taking the same simple approach in a unexpected product: Ikea-branded beer. Available only in the U.K., the company is selling Öl Mörk Lager (a dark lager) and Öl Ljus Lager (a light lager). The brews are sold only at Ikea and priced at £1.75, or about US$2.75, and they presumably pair well with the company’s famous Swedish meatballs. To our readers in the U.K.: Consumer Nation suggests skipping the Ikea brew until after you have put your new furniture together.

4. “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat:” Or maybe a bigger can. Narragansett Brewing is going retro: for a limited time they are rolling out the can design used throughout the 1970’s, which appeared in the movie Jaws, the classic Steven Speilberg film credited with being the first-ever summer blockbuster. In the movie, Boat Captain Sam Quint, played by Oscar-nominated actor Robert Shaw, intimidates marine biologist Matt Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfuss, by cracking open a Narragansett beer, drinking it all in one sip and then crushing the can. The folks at Narragansett are running a “Crush It Like Quint” contest, where consumers can recreate the memorable scene and send it in to the brewer. The “best and most creative” “Crush It Like Quint” entry will win a BluRay copy of the film.

5. Too Many Horny Goats?: It's estimated that there are now more than 2,000 breweries operating in the U.S. and more are in the planning stage. So there is bound to be some overlap as the category explodes in growth. That’s the only way to explain Ohio’s influx of Horny Goats. The first to arrive was Horny Goat American Porter, brewed by Elevator Brewing in Columbus. Now there is Horny Goat Brewing from Wisconsin, whose beers are now available in Ohio. Both the beer and brewery use cartoon goats for logos. These types of situations have sparked trademark lawsuits in the past, but here’s hoping these goats can coexist peacefully.

6. Wine Barrels Become Wood Flooring: One man’s trash is often another man’s treasure. In this case the 100,000 wine barrels discarded each year by large wine vineyards can now be another man’s flooring. New York-based Jubilee Flooring is turning discarded wine barrels into wood flooring with the help of the U.S. Forest Service. The business uses a special process developed by Forest Products Lab to straighten the curved staves so they can be used as flooring, instead of their most common use: garden planters.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.

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