EDGARTOWN — Beers are to boats as franks are to Fenway, and passengers on the ferry from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard this summer aren’t likely to miss an island-centric brew on their Steamship Authority vessel.
Bad Martha Beer Co. launched its IPA on the ferries on Memorial Day and opened a brick-and-mortar shop in Edgartown in time for the summer crowds. The store will feature six or more beers brewed on site, along with two from Mercury Brewing in Ipswich.
The brewery is the creation of Jonathan Blum, global nutrition and public affairs officer for Yum! Brands and a 25-year Vineyard resident. A marketing expert (Yum! has 41,000 restaurants in 28 countries and includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC), Blum came up with the concept for Bad Martha and built the beer around it. He hired Jim Carleton, formerly of Boston Beer Works, to lead his operation. Carleton moved his wife and daughter to the island this year. “Most breweries start with somebody who really knows how to brew beer, which I don’t,” says Blum. “They start in a garage or basement, and then if they get lucky, they take off and they grow. I’m a marketer and wanted to start with the marketing aspect of it.”
To that end, he began by commissioning a drawing of a dark-haired mermaid beckoning customers from the beer’s packaging. “I wanted her to be sensuous but not sexual,” says Blum. “I didn’t want her to alienate anybody. I wanted her to be mysterious, a siren who calls you in.”
The location of the shop, on the grounds of Donaroma’s Nursery, certainly helps call attention to it. Blum and business partner Peter Rosbeck built a post-and-beam barn to house the brewery operation. The beers Carleton brews will be available for customers to sample and will also be sold in growlers to take away.
At a recent party celebrating the brewery’s opening, visitors mingled (typical conversation: “I was going to work in Vail this summer but I got offered a job in Tahoe”) among hydrangeas and flowering dogwoods. A group of eight men wielding golf bags stopped in for samples of a German Helles brewed with 30 pounds of local honey, and a stout made with bittersweet dark chocolate from Not Your Sugar Mamas, a company on the island. Blum hopes the brewery will become a tourist destination like the shops and art galleries up the street.
While he may not be a beer guy, Blum is putting his all into the project. He hopes to expand Bad Martha nationally. The beer is in a couple hundred locations in Massachusetts and will expand to Chicago in July.
The marketing executive has taken mission trips to Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania to raise millions for hunger relief. In that philanthropic vein, 10 percent of Bad Martha’s profits will be donated to food pantries wherever the company operates.
Bad Martha Beer Co.
270 Upper Main St., Edgartown,
Martha’s Vinegard, 508-939-4415, www.badmarthabeer.com
Gary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com.