Many people I talk to about beer have no idea of the craft beer movement in the states. Most people associate America with mass produced light pilsener style lagers and rightfully so as they take up a 95% share of the market over there. However the situation in the UK is very simillar but the rise of the microbrewery here is well known to many and not just real ale lovers.
The craft brewing movement has developed in the US over pretty much the same period of time that the CAMRA led real ale movement has in the UK. In some ways the movement in the US is more exciting as there is a real desire for experimentation with different styles being revived and new ones being created where as the UK can be very conservative and far too traditional in it's creations.
America had a rich and diverse brewing tradition that was wiped out by prohbition in 1920. When prohibiton was repealed in 1933 home wine making was legalised but a clerical error failed to add the words 'and/or beer.' Perversley this was not rectified till 1978 when a bill was passed that repealed restrictions on brewing in small quantities. A homebrewing community was born and these brewers re-created styles that they hadn't been able to buy for so long.
Craft brewing has been credited with having been started a while before this time when in 1965 Fritz Maytag bought San Francisco's Anchor brewery. It took Fritz 10 years to establish his brewery as a producer of fine crafted beers and in 1975 Anchor started bottling their flagship Steam beer.
The first actual microbrewery to open in the states in 1976 was the short lived New Albion brewery in California but by this point the homebrew revolution was dawning. Initially a trickle of microbrewers grew in to a flood and by the 1990's there were hundreds breweries and brewpubs in America. By the end of the decade many of the new brewers had gone out of business or changed hands but a solid market base for quality crafted beers had been established.
This period saw the arrival of much respected and very succesful craft brewers such as The Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, Stone brewing and Magic Hat. The craft brewing movement is still growing in the states as more and more Americans look for something more satisfying and exports from these brewers are growing at pace.
Anyone looking to sample quality and diverse beers could do a lot worse than to look across the Atlantic to our brothers in the new world and their fine offerings.