Six things that have consumers buzzing in the world of beer, wine and spirits as we head into the weekend:
1. Enjoy by 9.21.12: It's not uncommon for some breweries to note the date a beer was bottled on its packaging. Now California-based Stone Brewing is turning that concept upside down. They are telling consumers the date by which consumers should drink its beer. It's called "Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA" and the idea is for consumers to drink the beer at its freshest. The special brew is being released in three markets, New Jersey, Chicago and Southern California.
2. New Belgium Monitors Water Supply: A good water supply is the lifeblood of any brewery. Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing is keeping a close eye on the water it gets from the city of Fort Collins. The Brewery is watching for any residue from a wildfire that tainted part of the Poudre River. A wildfire scorched 136 square miles in Northern Colorado in June and runoff from fire turned parts of the river black. Brewery spokesman Bryan Simpson told the Associated Press that so far none of the brewery's water supply has been affected.
3. Italian Craft Beer Booming: Italy may be working its way through a financial crisis, but hard economic times have not impacted the country's craft beer scene. There are now more than 445 craft breweries in Italy, up from just seven in 1996. A new report from an association of Italian Brewers says beer is making gains among consumers with 28.5 percent of Italians saying beer is their favorite drink compared with 37 percent who prefer wine.
4. Back-To-School Brewing: It's the time of year where college students across the nation say good bye to summer and prepare to head back to college campuses. For most students that means a return to hitting the books, but for a lucky few it means hitting the brewery. Rice University is among a growing number of colleges that offer beer-related course work. Rice is offering a continuing education course called "Beer Beyond the Hedges" where students will visit local breweries, have a beer tasting and review course work focused on the history of beer and the brewing process.
5. Wine With a Twist:Blue Moon Brewery captured the attention of beer consumers when it began garnishing its Belgian White beer with an orange slice, now a new wine label is looking to apply the orange twist to wine. Charonge is a California white wine blended with natural orange flavor. Created by Coastal Wine Brands, a division of Delicato Family Vineyards, Charonge is an attempt to bring the wine category into the fruit-infused genre made popular by spirits and craft beers. (Read more:Blue Moon Brews a Beer for Friday's Blue Moon.)
6. Da Coach Gets Back Into Da Wine Business: Hall of Fame player and football coach Mike Ditka is known for his no nonsense approach to football. Off the field, Ditka has made a name in the food and wine business as the owner of several steakhouses that bear his name. Now the man affectionately known as "Da Coach" is getting back into the wine business. Ditka is partnering Illinois-based Terlato Wine International for an eight-label collection that pays tribute to Ditka's career highlights with titles such as "The Player," "The Coach," and "The Hall of Famer." Ditka previously had a partnership with California-based Mendocino Wine Company.
-By Tom Rotunno, CNBC Senior Editor