Mischievous winds brought Bartholomew Gosnold’s ship to Martha’s Vineyard in 1602. When the ship washed ashore, Gosnold scoured the Island for ingredients to brew ale for his crew. Alas, he found none, and he fell asleep on a beach. He awoke under the light of the moon, and saw a sensuous mermaid with jet black hair. She beckoned to Gosnold as she sat at the water’s edge. Tempted, he followed, but the closer he got, the farther she swam. Finally, Gosnold found himself in a field brimming with abundant grapes — the leaves of which would become the secret ingredient for a robust, refreshing beer. Gosnold named the brew “Bad Martha,” after the mysterious siren he’d never see again.
Four hundred and twelve years later, the legend of Bad Martha manifested itself in an Edgartown brewery. The beer garden was founded by co-owners Jonathan Blum and Peter Rosbeck in 2014. It is located on 270 Upper Main St., just after the Triangle. The tap room always has a variety of beers on draft, and a number of platters and bar snacks that’ll complement your flight or pint.
The post-and-beam barn has a welcoming aesthetic, with endless apparel on either side of the entrance. No other than Bad Martha herself sits at the first bar seat, gesturing guests to sit down for a drink or two.
Brewmaster Jacobi Reid likes to keep things fresh. He’s constantly experimenting with new brews and flavors for his tasters to try. Bad Martha’s currently has seven brews on draft. You can pretty much count on the Summer Ale, Martha’s Vineyard Ale, and the 508 IPA. The next few brews change by the week— Garden Gruit, Shark Bite, Amity Amber, and Blueberry Abbey are in the casks now.
The Summer Ale is a golden-blonde beer made with wild Vineyard grape leaves, premium pilsner malt, and saaz hops. It’s refreshing, light, and just right for a sunny summer afternoon.
Martha’s Vineyard Ale is an extra-special bitter. It has a dark honey hue, a smooth caramel flavor, and a floral aroma — which pairs perfectly with the garden greens and hydrangea flowers surrounding Bad Martha’s brewery. The beer garden is located within Donaroma’s Nursery, which means guests can sit among the flowers, vines, and scents of the neighboring floral garden.
The 508 IPA is a medium-bodied American-style India Pale Ale. It’s made with citra and mosaic hops, and brewed with Vineyard grape leaves. Look out, it’s a 7 percent ABV (alcohol by volume). If there’s a beer that’ll sneak up on you, it’s this one.
The Shark Bite is a cucumber and jalapeño lager. It’s light in body and color, and aged on fresh Island-grown cucumbers and jalapeños. It has a light, crisp and a subtle spice, cooled by refreshing cucumber. The Blueberry Abbey has a medium body and fruity flavor and aroma. It’s aged on 35 pounds of fresh Island-grown blueberries. The Garden Gruit is an old-fashioned and unhopped beer style. Traditional gruits, or herb mixtures, were made using local lemongrass, chamomile, star anise, and rosemary. Last but not least, the Amity Amber is a pilsner with a dark body. It has a similar taste to the Martha’s Vineyard Ale.
Something you might not know about the brewery — it also serves really great food. Bad Martha’s cheese, charcuterie, and veggie platters are exactly what you’ll want to pick on as you taste your way through the seven different indulgences.
Platter master Louisa Hermes stands behind a glass window where the beer is brewed. Although platter master is a title I just came up with, mastery is the only way to describe the work she’s doing back there.
I often find myself thinking about Bad Martha’s cheese plates, so we’ll start there. It consists of four cheese varieties: crystal cave-aged Cheddar, Eidolon from Gray Barn Farm, and smoked provolone and goat cheese from Jansal Valley. The cheese is served alongside fresh ciabatta, lavash crackers, and Spicy Beer Mustard from the Scottish Bakehouse. It comes with chipotle candied almonds, dried tart cherries, and is garnished with fresh herbs and edible flowers from Morning Glory Farm.
The charcuterie plate is served with Calibri salami, tasso pork, and locally caught and smoked bluefish by MV Smokehouse. It comes with the same bread-cracker-mustard combo as the cheese plate, with a hot pepper relish, dried apricots, and Kalamata olives on the side.
The veggie plate has a variety of seasonal vegetables including carrots, celery, cucumber, sugar snap peas, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes, which are served with hummus and cucumber garlic tzatziki. The vegetables vary based on what’s in season at Morning Glory Farm, but you can count on them being crunchy, fresh, and bursting with local flavor.
Bad Martha’s is also fully equipped with all of summer’s gaming essentials — cornhole, ring toss, and cards and board games upon request. On weekends, you can catch live music on the outdoor patio, featuring a refreshing rotation of both local and visiting musicians. And some good news for triviagoers: Every Friday night is trivia night, and it’s continuing through September. Trivia starts at 5:30 pm. Also new and worth noting, a Coffee Porter and Wet Hop IPA are hitting the casks this week, so swing by, check it out, and “get bad.”
For more Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery updates, visit its Facebook page.