British brewers Fuller's and Adnams have moved to extend their sales to the American export market by taking part in a ground-breaking festival.
The 1997 American Real Ale Festival, held in Chicago last week, featured brews from the two British firms alongside more than 80 American real ales.
The number of beers and the attendance at the festival — an estimated 1,200 people — was more than double the corresponding figures from the inaugural festival last year.
Organiser Ray Daniels said British brewers should be encouraged that levels of interest in British-style beers were higher than ever in the USA.
"The festival offered an excellent opportunity for these firms to showcase their beer and further develop the export market for their beers, even if these are usually in bottled, or non cask-conditioned form," he said.
He added that the growth of US-brewed real ale had been limited by the fact that brewers did not own pubs and bars as they did in the UK. But he said the recent growth of brewpubs meant conditions were much better than before for real ales to flourish in the USA, even if the volume of sales will continue to be dwarfed by the giant brands like Miller and Budweiser.
"Last year we were begging for beers from brewers, but only space prevented us from having over 120 beers this year," added Daniels, president of the American Craft Beer Institute. "Reaction from consumers was just as positive."
Daniels admitted that there was little chance, given the short shelf life of cask-conditioned beer, of it being regularly shipped to the USA.
The festival beers were air-freighted, which would not be commercially viable, he said.
Daniels had originally hoped to involve more British brewers, but eventually stuck to two with established agents for importing draught beer into the US.