The Six Pack: Beer Buzz of the Week

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

1.Yuengling Takes Top Honors in Harris Poll: Yuengling is a beer brand on a roll. Already dubbed “America’s Oldest Brewery,” a 2011 jump in volume allowed Yuengling to grab a tie for the title of “Largest American-owned Brewer.”Now it has taken the top spot in the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend study. Yuengling Traditional Lager, available in only 14 states, beat out brands such as Corona, Molson Coors Brewing's Blue Moon, Diageo's Guinness Stout, and Boston Beer's Sam Adams for the title of “Beer Brand of the Year."

2. Omission Beer Goes Nationwide With Gluten-Free Beer: What do you get when you combine two the hottest consumer product trends in the country? You get Omission Beer, the first craft beer brand in the U.S. focused exclusively on brewing a gluten-free product. Previously available only in Oregon, Omission is now bringing its Omission Lager and Omission Pale Ale to the rest of the country in a phased rollout beginning on the West Coast and going nationwide by mid-June. Omission is owned by the Craft Brew Alliance

3. Guinness Introduces the QR Code Pint Glass: QR codes — aka Quick Response Codes — might be the most confusing of packaging trends. Companies love them due to their fast readability and large storage capacity that when activated give consumers access to information about the product. The small barcode-like squares are popping up on packages of every shape and size, even though consumers often have no idea what they do. Now Guinness Stout has found a reason for beer drinkers to give QR codes a chance. They’ve created the Guinness QR Cup that when filled with a Guinness (or any dark liquid) reveals a QR pattern. Once scanned by a smartphone, the code allows the consumer to "tweet about your pint, update your Facebook status, check in via Foursquare, download coupons and promotions, invite your friends to join you, and launch exclusive Guinness content."

4. Breckenridge Brewery to Make Special Comic-Con Beer: There’s a lot of money in geekdom. Comic Conventions are rolling carnivals of commerce with comic book fans, video gamers and sci-fi lovers getting together to preview and buy the latest products. Then there are craft beer fans who will stand in line for hours for a limited-release brew. Now the two worlds are about to meet. Breckenridge Brewing is teaming up with the Denver Comic Con in June to brew a special commemorative beer. No details yet on the style of brew, which will be available only at the convention and select bars that weekend, but you can hope it's something that will go down easy after an exhausting lightsaber class.

5. A Slam Dunk for Retired NBA Star's Winery: Many athletes struggle in their post-career business endeavors, but former NBA star Yao Ming appears to be off to a good start. Yao Family Wines, the Napa Valley winery founded by the retired international basketball star in 2011 is already earning accolades. The company’s inaugural 2009 vintages both recently received high marks by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The “Yao Ming 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon” received a score of 95 points, while the “Yao Ming 2009 Family Reserve” received a score of 97 points. Yao Ming brand wines are only distributed in mainland China, where wine consumption is booming.

6. Sheraton Switches From Happy Hour to Social Hour: Starwood's Sheraton hotel chain is hoping wine sampling will lead to more wine sales. To that end, its partnering with Wine Spectator to create what they are calling Social Hour, where two-ounce tastings of wines rated 90 or higher by Wine Spectator will be available to hotel guests. The chain is also revamping its wine menus to feature wines considered good values by the magazine. The program will be available in about 60 percent of Sheraton hotels.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the wine tastings being introduced at Sheraton hotels will be free. There will be a fee.)

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