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The marked growth of specialty beers increasingly has been a thorn in the side of major breweries, which see their flagship products degraded by the "gourmet" positioning of craft products.

"I can tell you that the whole micro thing drives [Anheuser-Busch VP-Marketing] August Busch IV absolutely nuts" said one ad executive. "It infuriates him that these upstart companies are coming in and implying that his family's product is" lousy.

The marketing response from the industry's biggest players has varied, from testing faux-micro spinoff brands of their own to direct confrontation. The most recent attack came from Miller Brewing Co.'s new campaign for Miller Genuine Draft.

The grainy, b&w TV, outdoor and print ads from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., assign an anti-fashion glamor to the beer, with slogans such as "It's time for a good, old macro-brew."

Upon the campaign's rollout, MGD Brand Director Jeff Carefoote said: "The advertising is straightforward and unpretentious, something we believe beer drinkers can relate to."

The biggest challenge, marketers say, is attracting the niche market without alienating the other 85% of beer drinkers.

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