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Beer Becomes Chic


Every now and then, a friend or co-worker might say to you, Let's go grab a beer. A beer -- that plebian brew that accounts for a little over half the alcoholic beverage sales in America. You don't grab a glass of wine or a frozen margarita. But beer is so ordinary, you think nothing of crushing the can after you've drunk one, or breaking the bottle in the trash. Chardonnays and dry Martinis have cachet. Even bottled water has become an elegant drink. But a beer is just a beer.

Brewers spend billions of dollars on advertising. All it does is pull customers from one brand to another, while beer's overall share of the alcoholic-beverage market keeps sliding.

So to fight trendier liquors and wines, some beer is going upscale and affecting a sort of sex appeal. Brewing companies are packaging beers in royal-blue bottles; sleek cans with artsy designs, and even aluminum bottles, strange as this custom may seem.

Just about every brewer now offers an elite-sounding signature beer, like Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser Select. It's good-old Budweiser -- the world's best-selling brand -- that's been fancified and given a heftier taste. Other companies are combining ordinary beer with wildly popular, caffeinated energy drinks that mellow you out and pep you up, all at once.

The most outlandish example of extreme beers -- as highbrow beers are being called -- is a Samuel Adams brand called Utopia. It comes in a real copper decanter and is said to taste like cognac smells. A single decanter sells for $100! Other stylish beers aren't that pricey, but they're expensive enough that average American beer drinkers aren't buying them by the caseload. And Americans are also becoming a little more careful, when a friend invites them out to grab a beer, to know which beer, and who's buying

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