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Six Pack: Beer Buzz of the Week

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

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1. Beer Production Booming At Home and Abroad: The mid-year numbers are in for America’s small and independent craft brewers and craft beer continues its unprecedented growth. According to the Brewers Association, dollar sales were up 14 percent in the first half of 2012, while volume of craft brewed beer sold jumped 12 percent during that same time period. Also up is the number of craft breweries. The Brewers Association estimates there are now 2,126 breweries in the United States — an increase of 350 additional breweries since June 2011. There are also more breweries in the planning stages, with 1,252 breweries in planning today compared to 725 a year ago. The current number of craft breweries in operation is 125-year high. In 1979, there were just 89 breweries in operation in the U.S. The Brewers Association estimates the craft beer industry currently provides an estimated 104,000 full-time and part-time jobs.

While craft beer surges at home, global beer production is at an all-time high. Led by China, beer production across the globe is up for the 27th consecutive year. According to a report released by Japanese Brewer Kirin Holdings, 50.9 billion gallons of beer were produced last year, up 3.7 percent from 2011 and an all-time high. The rise is attributed to increased demand in China, which accounts for about 25 percent of the global beer volume. It’s the 10th straight year China ranked first in beer production. The United States ranked second in beer production at 11.7 percent, a slight decline from the year earlier. The third and fourth largest beer-making nations are Brazil and Russia.

2. China Craft Beer Collaboration: China may be the leader in global beer production, but its craft beer scene is still a work in progress. But there are signs it's coming to life. Shanghai recently hosted its first craft beer festival, and now two of the country’s most well-known craft brewers are getting together for China’s first-ever craft beer collaboration. Beijing’s Great Leap Brewing and Shanghai’s Boxing Cat Brewery are releasing Yunnan Amber, which the breweries say “will showcase the flavors of native Chinese ingredients not readily available elsewhere in the world,” including Dianhong black tea from China’s southwestern Yunnan province. The beer is set for release this weekend.

3. Newcastle Takes a Bite Out of Seasonals With Werewolf: Seasonal beer releases are a growing trend in the beer industry and a key driver of growth in the marketplace. Now Newcastle Brown Ale, imported by Heineken USA, is looking to take a bite out of the seasonal business. The brewery began offering a rotation of limited edition seasonal brews in select markets two years ago and is now taking its latest limited edition release, Newcastle Werewolf, nationwide this fall.

4. Oskar Blues Growth Outpaces the Industry: It’s been a busy first half of the year for Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewing with the announcement of an East Coast brewery and distribution expansion into the Chicago market. As the first craft brewer to put its beer in cans, Oskar Blues is a leader in the growth of the craft beer industry. Now, according to the numbers for the first half of 2012, the brewery is growing faster than the industry it helped to create. Oskar Blues reported a 53 percent increase in revenue and a 47 percent increase in depletions in its established markets over the past six months outpacing industry growth by nearly 40 percent.

5. Super PAC Beer: In Presidential election years, there is always a lot of talk about getting the youth of the country involved in the political process. Now two students at George Washington University have caught the political bug. They have created and federally-registered a Super PAC to raise beer money in the hopes of getting Congress to resolve its differences over a beer. "In college we solve our differences by sitting down and having a beer," says Daniel Bassali, the co-founder of the Super PAC, which is named “Slam Dunks, Fireworks and Eagles.” Bassali says the group is “slowly but surely” getting to its goal of raising $5,000.

6. When It Rains It Pours…Pints: Unlike here at home, summer in Ireland has been a soggy one with record rainfall. Peter Murphy, the brand manager for Murphy’s Irish Stout, decided he wanted to do something to lift the country’s spirits. To that end, Murphy’s Irish Stout will give away 1,000 pints each day it rains between now and the end of September. “We would absolutely love gorgeous, sunny weather, but we are being realistic. We want to make the wet weather more bearable,” Murphy told the British newspaper The Sun.The free points are available only in Cork, Ireland, where about 100 pubs are participating in the promotion.

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

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