Local Craft Beer Movement

James McCloskey

James McCloskey › Jamie McCloskey and his wife Nikki moved from Brooklyn to an old farmhouse in southern New ...


Much as the local food movement has grown and begun to flourish in recent years, so too has the local craft beer movement. New England has seen many small breweries pop up in both cities and in small towns such as Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Sean Cody never planned on making a living with beer, but after losing his job while living in Rhode Island he wandered into a local brewery and walked back out with a job.

“Craft beer became my passion, so when I moved home starting my own brewery and bringing great beer to my community seemed like a natural choice.”

A few years later Sean landed in Amesbury. The historic downtown had recently seen tremendous renovations and a resurgence of business in the old nineteenth-century factories and warehouses that had once represented thriving industrial trades. He opened a brewery there in 2009 just off Main Street, along the steep banks of the Powow River. Almost immediately he began to receive orders from local bars and restaurants, as well as a booming walk-in trade from customers looking for good local beer.

Like local food there are advantages to local beer. Besides the obvious benefits they can bring to a small local economy, craft brewers ensure that customers are drinking the freshest beer possible. Cody Brewing also gives back to some of these same farmers by donating spent hops and grains for compost or livestock feed, completing a more sustainable and local farm-to-brewery loop.

And just as local farms offer varieties of fruits and vegetables that can be lost or overlooked in the hegemony of supermarket produce, local breweries offer a wide variety of unique brews that take advantage of ingredients that the mass producers overlook or ignore.

Bringing great beer to my community seemed like a natural choice. –Sean Cody

“We source local produce like raspberries for our Summer Lovin’, our Raspberry Lime Saison and carrots for our Carrot Cake Porter,”says Sean, among other basic ingredients like barley and hops that come from local sources. Cody Brewing also released a batch of Honey Gingah (that’s ‘ginger’, for you non-New Englanders), a pale ale that is light golden in color and laced with sweet honey, spiced with ginger and a light hint of hallertau hop. Past releases also include a blueberry white ale called Purple Daze, a Red Ryder Christmas “Fruit Cake” Ale, and the Last Minute Stout–a combination vanilla and pumpkin recipe. Small, local breweries can afford to take chances on these unique recipes while the large breweries continually churn out the same near–identical lagers. Cody Brewing is also launching a new series of Farmhouse Style ales, a type of beer that used both American Belgian hybrid yeast strain and Brettanomyce yeast, giving the beer a distinctive tang.

Much like some small farms are going farm-to-table through Community Supported Agriculture or CSA programs, Cody Brewing is pioneering a fermenter-to-table program he calls CSB – Community Supported Beer.

“It’s a membership,” he says. “It’s just like a farm CSA: a way to locally source your beer and get great styles throughout the year. We even offer full and half shares. Our membership list is growing every day.”

Already Cody Brewing’s popularity is increasing so fast that it is outgrowing its original space. The old brewery is set to become a smaller brew house and “Experimental Fermentorium” which will focus on limited edition and experimental batches of beer while bigger batches of popular beers are brewed off site. (But still local!)

“We are going to be able to put out those unique beers that we are known for out on the market and start drafting all the recipes that I have been dreaming of brewing,” says Sean.

So next time you’re looking for the perfect accompaniment to the dinner you’ve cooked using ingredients from your local farmers be sure to consider a local brew.

We can all say ‘cheers’ to that.

Do you enjoy a local craft beer movement where you live?

Photo credit: Kevin Harkins