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Six Pack: Beer Buzz of the Week

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Six things that have consumers buzzing in the world of beer, wine and spirits this week:

1. Beer is Back: Just one week after two studies citeddeclining beer volumes,a new report says beer may be on its way back. The Beer Institute tells the Wall Street Journalthat beer shipments in the U.S. rose 1.9 percent in the first eight months of 2012. If the increase holds up for the rest of the year, it would end a streak of three straight yearly declines in beer shipments.

2. Craft Beer Looking Good in the Golden State: These are tough economic times in California but one bright spot is the craft beer industry. According to a recent report by the California Craft Brewing Association, the craft brewing industry generated about $3 billion in total economic impact in California in 2011. Steve Wagner, the president and brewmaster at Stone Brewing Company and president of the CCBA said, California’s craft brewers also created more than 22,000 jobs last year, a welcome number for a state with a 10 percent unemployment rate.

3. No Bull — Denver Brewery Makes Ballsy Beer: It takes a lot of guts to turn an April Fool’s joke into reality. In the case of Denver’s Wynkoop Brewery, it takes a lot of balls. Denver’s oldest brew pub and craft brewery is releasing Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, which as the name implies is made with "Rocky Mountain Oysters" aka bull testicles. The beer is described as a “special ultra-limited release” and will be available at the brewpub and at the Great American Beer festival which kicks off next week. According to Wynkoop’s Marty Jones, the beer is 7 percent alcohol by volume and 3 BPB “balls per barrel.” The beer was originally announced on April 1 of this year as a joke, but after consumers kept asking for a taste, it has become a reality six months later.

4. New Belgium Gets Social: With marketing budgets tight for most craft brewers, social media is an important tool for brewers to publicize their events/product offerings and to engage consumers. Few have perfected the strategy better than the nation’s third largest craft brewer, New Belgium Brewing. In the wake of a summer-long social media campaign dubbed “Enjoy The Ride,” which centered around the iconic bicycle logo for its signature Fat Tire Amber Ale, New Belgium says its Facebook fan base grew by about 50,000 fans and its Twitter followers increased by about 10,000. New Belgium says three month campaign was its largest social media undertaking ever.

5. Barenaked Beer: Few things go better than beer and music. In the latest partnership between band and brewer, Canadian musicians Barenaked Ladies are teaming up with Ontario-based Flying Monkee Craft Brewery. The pair are joining forces to create a chocolate imperial stout called BNL Strong Beer. Flying Monkee founder and brewer Peter Chiodo tells the Toronto Star the idea was inspired by last year’s release of “Faithful,” which was released by Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s release of the album "Ten."

6. Port Pairings: Wine and food pairing meals are commonplace. Craft beer pairings are also becoming a dining staple, so much so that even hamburger chainspicked up on it. Now Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is extending the idea to Port wine. Ruth's Chris is partnering with Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca to host what they are calling the first nationwide Port-pairing dinner. The event will occur on Oct. 18 at 51 participating Ruth's Chris Steak House restaurants nationwide and will feature a five-course Port dinner. Designed with “illustrating the versatility of Port” in mind, the dinner will feature a Port cocktail and pair a “variety of Port styles with each of the five courses.”

Beer, wine and spirits stocks to watch:

Anheuser-Busch Inbev

Diageo

Constellation Brands

Molson Coors Brewing

Boston Beer

Craft Brew Alliance

Beam

Vina Concha & Toro

-By Tom Rotunno, CNBC Senior Editor

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

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