Yes, it is true. There is a new beer on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard, Bad Martha. What you might say? I don’t know of any new brewery on the Island. Well, since we do live in a fragile environment, the beer is actually brewed and bottled in Ipswitch, MA. However, there really is a bit of Martha’s Vineyard in every bottle.
It’s not the hops (yet) or the barley, but these beers have a special ingredient that no other beer has, grape leaves from Martha’s Vineyard. The grape leaves make these craft beers unique. Who else has this ingredient? No one I know of, but before we talk a bit more about the beer, let’s talk about how Bad Martha beer came about.
Long time Summer resident and now Island resident Jonathan Blum, (Vice President, Yum! Brands, which includes Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut) has been very involved in local charities. His passion really lies in fighting hunger. Yum supports this cause by supporting the organization dedicated to hunger relief, From Hunger to Hope.
A couple of years ago, Jonathan talked to long-time Island resident and beer fan Peter Rosbeck about the idea of creating a beer that could represent some of what people love about Martha’s Vineyard.
Fast forward a couple of years, after a lot of research and a lot of trial and error, something’s really brewing for Jonathan and Peter. Welcome Bad Martha – Get Bad. Do Good. Drink Responsibly (the company motto).
The business model supports local charities first. The first 10% of profits goes to the Island Food Pantry. This is an important part of the social mission behind the beer, “To operate the Company in a socially responsible way, by first sharing a portion of beverage profits with local hunger relief charities and employees before rewarding its investors.”
The potential for doing good with this charitable donation is amazing for the Island community. Many may not know this but there is a problem with hunger here. People do struggle more than one might imagine, and this offers hope.
Bad Martha is a small craft beer, just starting out, sort of like Sam Adams beer a few years back. Though only locally available at the moment, this beer hopes to take a little MV to the whole country in the next few years. Can you imagine the impact that could possibly have on the Island Food Pantry?
Bad Martha Summer Ale
Bad Martha Summer Ale is a traditonal blonde ale in every sense. It’s made with Pilsner malt and Saaz hops. A great marriage of malt and hops makes this beer light and refreshing.
The Saaz hops have a pretty distinct flavor. They don’t offer a lot of bitterness like some hops do, but you’re left with a very mild, earthy aroma, and a crisp light ale with hints of pear, and perhaps the grape leaves add to that lovely scent too.
The Saaz hops can also be found in favorites like Stella Artois and Rouge Dead Guy Ale. If you like these beers, then you’ll most likely enjoy the Bad Martha Summer.
Bad Martha’s Martha’s Vineyard Ale
The Martha’s Vineyard Ale is the company’s flagship beer. It’s an amber style ale with English and American hops. This medium bodied ale has a rich caramel color, is very drinkable, and I can easily see enjoying it with a burger and some fries.
In the Fall, keep an eye out for Island IPA, Bad Martha’s India Pale Ale. An IPA is a favorite of mine, so I really look forward to trying this one. I can’t wait to see how the grape leaves impact the flavor on this style ale. I imagine the hoppiness might go really well with the slightly bitter flavor of grape leaves.
The guys were able to get well-known brewer, Jared Rouben, from Goose Island, Chicago’s craft beer. Anheuser-Busch bought the brewery, and at that time Jared decided it was time to do his own beer thing, including working on Bad Martha.
Jared got to work on beer recipes incorporating the grape leaves which come from a farm in Edgartown. After all, if you’re going to have a beer that says Martha’s Vineyard on it, it has to have a little something MV. After numerous recipes and brews, Martha’s Vineyard Ale was created, the Summer Ale soon followed. Jared is darn proud of the Bad Martha ales and can’t wait to introduce the Island IPA. Now that is one creative process I bet you wouldn’t be sad to be a part of.
For Peter, Jonathan, and Jared too, the mission is to do good with good beer, but be a little bad too. So far things are going well. With that said, soon Bad Martha will be available off the shores of MV.
Perhaps next time you’re in Boston or NYC at your favorite bar, you’ll be able to enjoy a little MV in a bottle of Bad Martha. Also, there’s a chance that just seeing a bottle of Bad Martha might make you smile and bring you to an Island state of mind.
Are you curious? Well, you can find Bad Martha’s at a number of places, either on tap or in the bottle, including Atria, Hooked, Fishbones, Nancy’s, Farm Neck, Atlantic, Vintage, Jim’s Package Store, Sweet Life Cafe, The Wharf and more. Keep an eye out for the mermaid taps coming this Fall. Then you’ll really be able to spot the raven haired mischief maker that makes up the Bad Martha label.
The Lore of Bad Martha
Next time you grab a six pack of Bad Martha, be sure to check out the bottom, there you’ll find the “story” behind Bad Martha:
“In 1602, mischievous winds drove Bartholomew Gosnold’s ship to Martha’s Vineyard. As legend has it, he scoured the island for ingredients to brew ale for his crew. Alas, he found none and fell asleep on the shore. Under the light of the full moon, he awoke to a sensuous mermaid with jet black hair and a devilish grin.”
“Sitting at water’s edge, she beckoned to Gosnold. The closer he got, the further she swam — tempting him to follow. So he did. Finally, he found himself in a field brimming with lush island grapes. These would be perfect for wine, he thought. But nay, he was an Englishman, so these grapes became the secret ingredient for a robust, refreshing beer.”
“Gosnold never saw the mermaid again. He went to his grave wondering if he ever saw her at all. Today, we brew every handcrafted beer as Gosnold did, with grape leaves harvested on the Vineyard and a splash of the mermaid’s mischief. Naturally, we had no choice but to name our beer after the elusive siren who started it all. Bad Martha.”
It’s kind of fun to have a little story, sort of like Heniken’s “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign – it’s fun and makes you think about the beer a little bit more. And why not? The beer has a little Martha’s Vineyard in every bottle, why not have a little fun with it. Don’t forget to look under the cap for “badisms.”
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