The biggest development in the beer category this year is the proliferation of "malternatives," or malt-based drinks packaged to resemble spirits, said Gary Hemphill, senior vice president of information services, Beverage Marketing Corp., New York, a research and consulting firm. Smirnoff Ice, introduced in January 2001, was extremely successful last year, Hemphill and others said, accounting for much, if not most, of the 133.9% increase in case sales enjoyed by Guinness-Bass Import Co., ...

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