Six-Pack: Beer-Loving Simpson's Fans Say Woo-Hoo!

Anheuser-Busch Budweiser
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Anheuser-Busch Budweiser

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

1. Done Deal: Anheuser-Busch InBev has officially completed its $20 billion acquisition of the portion of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo it did not already own. The deal gives Anheuser-Busch InBev, already the world's largest brewer, control over four of the top five global beer brands. It now has a total of 17 billion dollar brands in its portfolio.

Here's a look at the brand values of the top 10 global beer brands and who controls them according to BrandZ's 2012 report:

1) Bud Light ($10.8M) - Anheuser-Busch InBev
2) Budweiser ($9.5M) - Anheuser-Busch InBev
3) Heineken ($8.2M) - Heineken
4) Corona ($6.6M) - Anheuser-Busch InBev
5) Skol ($6.5M) - Anheuser-Busch InBev
6) Stella Artois ($6.3M) – Anheuser-Busch InBev
7) Guinness ($4.4M) - Diageo
8) Aguila ($3.9M) - SABMiller
9) Brahma ($3.8M) - Anheuser-Busch InBev
10) Miller Lite ($3.1M) - SABMiller

2. Can't Get Enough of that Wonderful Duff: Beer-drinking Simpson's fans have a reason to say woo-hoo! The much anticipated "The Simpson's Springfield Fast Food Court" has opened at Universal Studios. It includes a replica of Moe's Tavern, complete with Duff Beer and Flaming Moe's. The Duff Beer is brewed by craft brewer Florida Beer. It's $7 for a disposable cup or $12 for beer with a souvenir glass.

3. Beer Label Brouhaha: A lawsuit involving Vermont's Magic Hat Brewing and Kentucky's West Sixth Brewing has been resolved. Magic Hat had filed a federal lawsuit claiming trademark infringement involving "confusingly and substantially similar" logos. Among the issues is Magic Hat use of the a "#9" for one of its most popular beers and West Sixth using the number six for its packaging. Things got ugly after Magic Hat filed the lawsuit and West Sixth took to social media to air its grievances. Now that its been resolved, the companies issued a joint statement in which both parties say they wish the other "good fortune and continued success."

4. Old Time Hockey, New Craft Beer: Sports rivalries are known for whipping up civic pride and an age-old tradition of the mayor from competing cities wagering the best their city has to offer on the outcome a playoff series. That's playing out in the NHL's Western Conference Final pitting the Chicago Blackhawks against the Los Angeles Kings. Both mayors are including craft beer in their bet.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmaneul is offering "3 Cases of Goose Island's 312 Lager beer." (We at Six-Pack would like to respectfully point out to hizzoner that Goose Island 312 is actually a wheat ale and not a lager.) Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is wagering "One case of beer each from our very own Golden Road and Eagle Rock Breweries."

It's interesting to note that as recently as 2009, L.A. would not have been able to offer its own craft beer in the bet: Eagle Rock opened in 2009, the first microbrewery in LA in 60 years. Golden Road Brewing opened in 2011 and was the first canned craft beer in Southern California and the first LA brewery to package its beer for retail. The change is not lost on Golden Road Co-Founder Tony Yanow, who told CNBC: "Los Angeles [now] has one of, if not the, fastest-growing craft beers scenes in the country. It's a fun time to be in this community, and we are stoked to be one of LA's own regional craft breweries."

The letters the mayors wrote to each other are worth a read. Emanuel's letter is here; Villaraigosa's is here.

5. Batali Beer: Mario Batali is no stranger to Las Vegas restaurants. He has three spots up and running, and is opening a fourth eatery in Sin City. Batali and partner Joe Bastianich are launching their first burger joint: "Burger & Beer" at the Venetian. It's scheduled to open this fall and will feature a 100-seat patio facing Las Vegas Boulevard and more than 20 televisions inside for sports fans. As the name would suggest, it will also feature an extensive selection of craft brews from Las Vegas and Southern California.

6. Too Fast for Craft?: The rapid growth of the craft beer industry has been one of the best economic stories in recent years. But more than 2,400 breweries in operation and another thousand in the works has some concerned about the market's ability to sustain the number of players. Some recent data from GuestMetics show the craft segment may in fact be moving too fast, with the pace of expansion possibly sustainable.

"The number of craft brewers in on-premise grew by nearly 17 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, and continued to grow at that clip during the first quarter of 2013 versus year ago," said Bill Pecoriello, CEO of GuestMetrics.

"Similarly, the number of craft beer brands sold in on-premise grew about 22% in 2012 and continued at that growth pace during Q1 2013 compared to the prior year," he said. "Given craft beers sold in on-premise grew high single digits during 2012 and mid-single digits during the first quarter of this year, the expansion of the number of craft brewers and brands significantly outpaced the underlying volume growth of the segment.

"While we don't necessarily see a shake-out in the near term, looking out at the next three to five years, the question will be the sustainability of the economics of a lot of the new entrants given the declining volume per available brand," Pecoriello said. "We will likely see consolidation within the segment."

GuestMetrics data also show a rise in the average number of brands being sold per craft brewer.

"In 2011, each craft brewer sold on average almost 3.6 brands, and by 2012, that had increased about 4 percent to around 3.75 brands" said Brian Barrett, president of GuestMetrics. "Looking at the 22 percent expansion in craft brands being sold in on-premise, approximately three-quarters of that is due to a larger number of craft brewers and about one-quarter to a larger number of brands being sold per craft brewer, which is also putting pressure on the sustainability, particularly for the newer entrants in the segment."


Lagunitas Fusion: Lagunitas Brewing Company has announced it will be working with distributors and retailers from all six of its current distribution regions to create a series of new beers under its Fusion line. Four distributors have been picked to be the first to participate in the process. Two others will be added and the distributors will select the retailers involved.

Karen Hamilton, who handles national marketing at Lagunitas, tells CNBC the group will be heading to the Petaluma,CA based brewery in July to work with Head Brewer Jeremy Marshall to discuss what kind of beer they want to brew. The group will work with Marshall to create the recipe, select the ingredients and work together in the brewing process. The yet to be determined beer will be unveiled in late August or Early September and be exclusive to the distributor in each region.

Hamilton says working with distributors on a Fusion beer is something the brewery hopes to do "each month or so" for the next 12 months. Lagunitas will continue selecting six more distributors (and retailers) from its six regions and doing other, different beers with them. Here are the four distributors chosen so far for the first go around: Lee Distributors in South Carolina, Gate City Beverage Distributor in San Bernadino, Franklin Distributors in Connecticut, Central States Distribution in Kansas/Missouri.

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