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Flat demand for beer is prompting the major U.S. brewers to take a harder look at marketing of microbrews even as they probe overseas for bigger returns.

The majors, compelled still to build segments-dry beers, reds, ices-to catch the next wave (ices are now more than 5% of industry volume), are ogling smaller brewers like Boston Beer Co.

Micro volume isn't big yet: They took only 1.7% of market in '94, although barrelage was up 50%, according to Impact. It's their cache that tantalizes.

Anheuser-Busch Cos. hooked up with Redhook Ale Brewery to distribute Redhook outside its Pacific Northwest market. Miller Brewing took a majority in Celis Brewery. Stroh Brewery Co., encouraging its breweries to spawn brands, got Red River from Northern Plains Brewing (a.k.a. Stroh's facility in St. Paul).

A-B's Michelob got a new Amber Bock and ads for A-B's new Elk Mountain said little about A-B and lots about its micro approach. Miller's Icehouse and Red Dog are credited to Plank Road Brewing, an old Miller name.

Imports are beginning to pack macro-power, up 16% in bbls. for a 5.6% share, led by Heineken, Corona and Molson Ice (marketed by a new import/specialty unit at Miller).

Brewers meanwhile keep a wary eye on G. Heileman Brewing Co., struggling financially and with declining beer shipments, its bbls. dropping 5.9% for a 4.3% share of market in '94.

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