The craft beer movement: Who, what, where, when, how?

Hopps Farm Road Pale Ale from Offshore Ale Co. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers

It’s safe to say that New Englanders are slowly but surely stepping away from the PBRs and embracing the craft beer movement. But what exactly is a craft beer?

Defined officially by the Brewers Association, an American craft brewer is small, with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less. It’s also independent, with less than 25 percent of the brewery owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member other than the craft brewers themselves. When you think about it, 6 million barrels doesn’t even seem that small, right? Below craft brewers, there are microbreweries, which according to U.S. regulations can make no more than 15,000 barrels of beer a year. Want something even smaller? Scout out a nanobrewery: These tiny companies are commercial breweries using a three-barrel (six kegs), or smaller, brewing system.

“We’re in a really exciting time for craft beer right now,” Jackie Dodd, author of the popular blog The Beeroness, said. “We are moving past what used to feel like a subset of beer to being rapidly accepted as the standard for beer. Because of what craft beer has done in the past decade, even just the word ‘beer’ means something different to the world from what it used to.”

Examples of American craft breweries can be seen on-Island at both Offshore Ale Brewery (Oak Bluffs) and Bad Martha Brewery (Edgartown). One of the best things about craft breweries is how creative they can get with their brews — whether it’s the seasonal favorite, Offshore Blueberry, with hints of the sweet fruit, or Bad Martha’s coffee beer with local Chilmark Coffee, freedom is a staple of the craft beer movement. No longer are all breweries controlled by big beverage companies, but privately owned by beer-loving people.

Ms. Dodd also explained that beer and food pairings are a match made in heaven: “When it comes to pairing food, you have so many options with craft beer. The spectrum of flavors is astronomical in comparison with other alcoholic beverages, and you also have carbonation to play with. When you find the perfect pairing, it elevates the entire experience of the meal.” You can find some great beer and food recipes on her blog, The Beeroness, or her cookbooks, “The Craft Beer Cookbook” and “Craft Beer Bites Cookbook.”

If you want to discover the world of craft beers, Park Corner Bistro in Oak Bluffs is hosting a Craft Beer Dinner on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 6 pm. Glen Gaskill of Our Market and executive chef Jessie Martin of Park Corner have worked together on a menu of tapas to pair with beers from craft brewers such as Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (California), Harpoon Brewery (Massachusetts and Vermont), Southern Tier Brewing Company (New York), Duvel (Belgium), and Clown Shoes Beer (Massachusetts). For more information, call 508-696-9922 or visit