Bad Martha Beer
by Lauren Mosher
It is a personal belief that people become the best version of themselves on vacation. For me, this version is not necessarily the best behaved. Without the routine of day to day life I become the fiesta femme fatale, and one location that brings out the ‘bad’ in me is Martha’s Vineyard. The Island epitomizes the carefree laidback lifestyle and it seems that all who visit cannot help but catch the Island fever.
This is exactly the attitude Jonathan Blum hoped to capture with the production of Bad Martha beer. Using the Vineyard as inspiration, he sought to create a beverage that encourages its consumers to channel their vacation selves, while also doing good.
A seasonal Vineyard resident, Jonathan’s goal with his dream company was two-fold: to craft a local beer with a unique twist and to create a socially responsible business model with a community-minded ethos. For Jonathan, being responsible means aiding in the fight against hunger, community by community. With that objective, a portion of each Bad Martha sale is donated to a local food bank in the community where the beer is sold. (Proceeds from sales on Martha’s Vineyard go to the Island Food Pantry.)
To create an original craft beer, Jonathan partnered with local beer enthusiast Peter Rosbeck, now the operations manager and co-owner of Bad Martha. Together, the two joined forces with Jared Rouben, former brewmaster at Goose Island Beer. Three beers have been released so far—the flagship Martha’s Vineyard Ale, an IPA, and a summer seasonal brew—to overwhelming success.
Though the beer is not produced on-Island (yet), it has maintained Island roots. When Jared set out to experiment with new flavors, Jonathan requested Island grape leaves to be featured in the final product. Initially skeptical about how to incorporate such an unconventional ingredient, Jared managed to extract liquid from the leaves, giving the new brews a truly unique flavor.
The first sip of the Vineyard Ale is hoppy— a combination of English and American varieties— but malt and the grape leaf extract flavors round out the beer, giving it a final note of caramel sweetness. The Island IPA, on the other hand, has a bitter bite; the beer’s golden, sun-kissed hue is a subtle guise for its bold flavor.
And what about the playful side of the brews? Each bottle features company mascot Bad Martha, an irreverent mermaid with an air of seduction, and under every bottle cap a ‘bad-ism’ is printed. Like: “Humpback whales have all the fun.”
With early brewing success, the Bad Martha crew is looking now to expand their enterprise into an Island institution. Jonathan hopes to open a microbrewery on the Vineyard next summer, featuring facility tours, a beer garden and opportunities to taste and buy experimental flavors, always with an eye towards doing good in local communities.