$100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall
By Matthew Maier

(Business 2.0) - First there were macrobrews.

Mass-produced, with German-sounding names like Budweiser and Schlitz, these pale lagers were inexpensive, easy to drink, and sold by the truckload. Next came microbrews: high-quality ales, porters, and stouts that reinvigorated the beer market in the 1990s. But with American tastes moving even further upscale--wine consumption has increased by 63 percent since 1991--beer sales have languished, rising just 0.5 percent in 2004. What's a brewmeister to do? Why, make beer more like wine, of course.

Photo GallerylaunchSee more photos

That's the logic behind many so-called craft beers, the industry's latest attempt to stoke demand. Produced in modest quantities and sold at ultrapremium prices, craft beers are meant to be sipped and savored, offering beer drinkers the same experience of exclusivity, history, and variety that has long appealed to oenophiles. With combined sales of $3.7 billion last year, craft beers already represent 3.2 percent of the U.S. market, though they make up just a tiny fraction of overall production. Here's how four brewers are exploiting the trend in hopes of putting some froth back in the beer business.

Click here for a photo gallery of Pricey Craft Beers.

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