It is hardly a movement -- yet. But inspired by Fritz Maytag's example of Anchor beer and convinced that there is a market for a specialty product, a score of microbreweries have sprung up across the country, from Boulder, Colo., to Sonoma, Calif., from Portland, Ore., to Albany, N.Y. "There are probably a half-dozen that are actually brewing right now," says Joseph Owades of the Center for Brewing Studies, "and a dozen more on the drawing boards."

The new brewers, most of whom produce fewer than 5,000 barrels a year, are a diverse lot. Jim Schlueter, of River City Brewing Co. in Sacramento, Calif., was a home-improvement contractor. Bill Newman, of William S. Newman Brewing Co. in Albany, worked for the State of New York as a budget analyst. Jack McAuliffe, of Sonoma's celebrated New Albion Brewing Co., worked as an optical engineer in Silicon Valley. They generally share the same techniques and brewing standards, relying on high-quality ingredients and traditional methods. Most try to market their product only in their area, aiming, as Maytag suggests, to price the product between domestic premiums and imports. And they all share the same problems: externally, the inability to raise capital, and, internally, the constant battle to ensure quality control.

Matthew Reich, the recent founder of the New York -- based Old New York Beer Co., is one example of the new breed of brew master. A former executive at Citibank and Hearst Corp.'s International Circulation Distributors, he first became interested in beer as a home brewer, studying the mystery of hops, barley, and water extensively before he decided to take the professional plunge. Although convinced that "people are willing to pay more for a quality product," he spent much of his time for two years before his first brewing doing market research. He hoped to justify his faith that a fully flavored, all malt, heavily hopped beer could sell on word of mouth, alone, among the upscale young professionals of New York City, the market he hopes to capture. As with most small brewers, raising money was his biggest problem; what limited capital he has -- a mere $250,000 -- he raised through a private New York State offering.

Reich hopes to have his own brewing facility eventually. But right now limited cash and an eagerness to put a product in the marketplace compelled him to brew his first batch, which made its debut this past fall, according to his own formula, in a regional brewery in upstate New York. Reich is currently making the rounds of bars and restaurants in Manhattan, hoping to persuade them to buy New York's newest indigenous brew, New Amsterdam Amber beer. And like most of his peers in the business, he credits Maytag with showing him the way. "Anchor Steam is the best beer in America," he agrees. "Or at least it was, until mine came along."