On an island with a strong and vibrant do-it-yourself ethos, it’s no surprise to discover that the grow-your-own food movement has expanded into the beverage world, with a small group of home brew enthusiasts experimenting with their own, varied beer-brewing interests and specialties.

One person I spoke to wants to bring near-extinct historical beers back from the brink. Another is fixated on crafting the perfect IPA in his basement. Everyone I talked to stressed the importance of cleanliness, several enthusiasts named Sierra Nevada the best on the mass market, and everyone shares an appreciation for a homemade cold beer enjoyed in the comfort of one’s home. Edgartown resident and home brew enthusiast David Crawford noted a change in public opinion for beer: “People are paying more attention to the quality,” he said, “because it’s expected now.”

When Oberon York moved to the Island from Falmouth he had both expected and hoped to find a stronger community of people making their own brews. Even so, he has connected with guys like David Crawford over their shared hobby and he suspects that the small community will continue to grow.

“Everything you need to get started can be found in a book” York said, “It’s a really approachable hobby.” To begin with you’ll need water, barley, hops and yeast. The ingredients are then precisely extracted, manipulated, heated and cooled until they transform into a drinkable (and hopefully desirable) beverage.

Throughout the process there are opportunities to influence the final product. Hops will work as a bittering agent when added early in the process, or as an aromatic when added later. “Brewing can be as simple or as complicated as you make it,” York said, likening the process to an art form.

Jay Bergantim, assistant brew master at Offshore Ale and homebrewing aficionado, had some sober words for novice beer makers. “It doesn’t matter how awful the first brew is because it is definitely going to be awful,” he warned.

Harsh? Maybe a little, but the message is actually encouraging: just get the inevitable first failure out of the way and then the good stuff will follow. For first time brewers Bergantim also recommended the kits you can buy online. “Some people look down on them,” he said. “But I say go for it. And make sure everything is clean, clean, clean.”

Bergantim’s beer obsession started at Offshore; he became fascinated with the process of making beer. He offered to volunteer with the brew master until he developed skills worthy of compensation. As the assistant, he still doesn’t have a lot of creative license so he experiments with recipes at home. He loves seeing the resurgence of ancient brews like Gose, a German-style beer characterized by its unique salty, sour flavor. “American craft brewers brought Gose back from the dead,” he said.

When Bergantim brews at home he likes to experiment with new recipes and rarely attempts the same beer more than once. David Crawford’s approach is the opposite; Crawford loves IPAs and is determined to create the perfect one. “I’m a hop head,” he said.

Crawford’s maiden brew was mead, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water. It was a successful brew, but he quickly realized he didn’t have a taste for it, and switched his focus to craft beers. “I figured that if I’m going to spend the time I might as well make something I like,” he said.

Crawford learned the process by watching videos online and his first set of equipment serendipitously came from a friend who was looking to downsize. Crawford said that the karma of inheriting beer making equipment at exactly the time that he needed it is typical of Island beer culture. “That’s the cool part of it. There is a real culture of learn, teach and pass it on.”

Having now reached the “teaching” portion of his homebrew journey, Crawford now shares what he’s learned with others. In addition to his IPA ambitions, he is also the driving force behind an attempt to create a stronger, more unified Vineyard brewing community. Last winter he taught a six-week intro to brewing course through ACE MV and a follow-up session is in the works. “Beer is a no-brainer,” Crawford said, “It brings people together.”