A Little Bad Martha, A Lot of Good
Iconic Martha’s Vineyard brewery opens a new location in Falmouth, carrying on the style and tradition first set on the island.
If you’ve been to Edgartown, odds are you’ve encountered the black and blue sign featuring a mermaid who looks suspiciously like Angelina Jolie. Curious, you’ve probably pulled into the parking lot, finding a beautiful cedar barn and luscious nursery. Inside, you’re greeted once again by that mermaid, this time, atop the bar pulls showing off a wide range of locally crafted and brewed beers. This unique brewery, Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery, pulls their name and logo from the lore of Captain Gosnold, who found himself on the island, searching for the ingredients to make ale for his crew. One night, a mermaid appeared to him and showed him a field full of grapes. Instead of making wine, he used the leaves to brew ale, a technique still used by Bad Martha brewers today.
Jonathan Blum launched Bad Martha Beer in 2012 at Boston’s Baseball Tavern and opened the flagship brewery in Edgartown in 2014. Since then, Bad Martha has been providing the island’s residents and visitors with a unique experience and distinctive brews. The beer’s early popularity led to expansion into bars, stores and festivals, on and off the island, winning 12 international medals along the way. That success convinced the team to open a second Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery in the fall of 2019 in East Falmouth on Rt. 28, welcoming old fans and newcomers alike to enjoy the fruits of their labor year-round.
Bad Martha Falmouth’s General Manager Josh Flanders says the choice to make the jump to Falmouth was an easy one. “It’s right on the other side of the boat; a lot of people already knew the brand, so it wasn’t like we were starting somewhere completely new where no one knew of us. It’s just across the pond, so it made sense. It has a similar clientele, and with the tourist industry, it felt like a natural next step. It felt like home, but on the mainland, where things can be a little easier.” Those things made easier include expanding distribution and maintaining a year-round business. The new building also has space for a full kitchen, and it is the only brewery on Cape Cod to have its own state-of-the-art canning line. Visitors can buy beer by the glass or a flight paddle, or take home a growler, crowler or cans of select styles. The goal is to always have at least 10 craft beers on tap, despite the challenges of COVID-19. And working with architectural designer Peter Pometti, the team was able to build upon what made the first Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery so iconic.
Blum had very specific inspirations when dreaming up the original Bad Martha. “He had been out to the wineries in Napa Valley and loved the architecture and style. He knew of some buildings done here in New England by the Amish and loved the work and craftsmanship. He wanted that same feel,” says Flanders. Riehl Construction, an Amish building company who have completed countless barn raises on Martha’s Vineyard, worked with Blum and award-winning Vineyard architect Patrick Ahearn to create the distinctive barn in Edgartown. When it came time to build the Falmouth location, Pometti took the design from Edgartown and modified it. “Blum wanted to keep that theme, so we took the barn from the Vineyard and kept the outside the same but redesigned the interior,” says Pometti. “On the Vineyard, the barn itself is the entire brewery, including the tasting area and the brewing equipment. In Falmouth, the majority of it is for the bar, the tasting and the retail. There are two tanks in the brew house portion, which is all behind a glass partition. The barn, as in Edgartown, is all post and beam without any nails. We used a lot of the same design features that were used on the Vineyard, but there’s a lot more space in Falmouth.”
Working on Bad Martha Falmouth was a unique opportunity for Pometti, who had never worked on a commercial build before. Working as both the designer and builder with his two companies, Architectural Innovations Inc. and AI Enterprises Inc., Pometti says, “It was unique in the sense that I hadn’t done a commercial building, so there was a lot more to deal with relative to permitting and such. But, one of the reasons I took it on was that there were many things about it similar to building a house. It wasn’t like I was going to systems I hadn’t done before. It was conventionally framed with wood, and on the outside with cedar vertical siding and a wood cedar roof. I didn’t feel too out of my comfort zone.”
Like their Edgartown predecessor with Donaroma’s Nursery, Bad Martha Falmouth neighbors a garden center; this time, Mahoney’s. The natural wood exterior next to the colorful garden center creates a seamless, organic street view on busy Rt. 28. “We couldn’t have asked for a better setting. Plus, we don’t have to do the landscaping ourselves,” Flanders laughs. “When we started looking for property, we decided to keep to the same business model and started talking to nurseries over here.” The influence of the neighboring nursery is evident, as Flanders talks about the creation of the Mellow Meadow Beer Garden. When purchasing the land, Bad Martha took the two lots next to Mahoney’s, which had previously held the Oysters Too restaurant and its parking lot. “Everything was removed, and we planted a bunch of seeds and created a meadow of wildflowers,” says Flanders of the space that would come in handy during a time no one saw coming. Once restaurants were allowed to open back up following the coronavirus shut down, Flanders and his team took advantage of the space to create a picture-perfect outdoor seating area. The meadow is adorned with statues from a Martha’s Vineyard sculpture artist, Thomas Maley, who passed away in 2000. The meadow helps to fulfill an original goal of the project. “One of the main goals of the new building was having a great street presence, which I think it does,” says Pometti. “But at the same time, since Rt. 28 is so busy, we wanted fairly extensive landscaping to help visitors feel like they’re not right on a busy road, while sitting in the beer garden.”
While having a garden center next door certainly helps with the stunning street presence, Mike Cotto, owner of Out on a Limb landscaping, worked closely with Flanders and Pometti to create the inviting landscaping, including creating the basis for what would become the Mellow Meadow. “I’ve been friends with Peter Pometti for years, so it was a lot of fun working with everyone at Bad Martha,” says Cotto of the experience.
With a new building also comes the opportunity to foster new talent. Bad Martha recently hired a new Head Brewer, Bryan Link. Link began his brewing career in 2012 with home brewing and has worked at various brew houses, including Lord Hobo in Woburn, before eventually landing at Bad Martha in July of 2020. Keeping up with trends in brewing, Link is bringing fun and unique brews to Bad Martha, including a strawberry and rhubarb sour for late summer into early fall, and dark ales or even a Scotch Ale for the fall and winter months.
For Bad Martha Farmer’s Breweries, its always been about more than just good beer. On their website, they state, “There’s a little of the Vineyard in every glass, as every beer is brewed with a few hand-picked wild grape leaves from Martha’s Vineyard,” and that “At Bad Martha, we believe in three things: great beer, getting bad and doing good.” For Flanders, community is at the heart of everything Bad Martha does. “The focus has always been giving back and being as involved as we can. We work in partnership with local farms, using local ingredients and giving back. We use oysters and coffee from local suppliers and fruits, herbs and vegetables from farms across the region,” he says. Bad Martha gives the first portion of profits to non-profits, such as the Island Food Pantry and Boys & Girls Club, to help those in need of food security, and they offer veterans, firefighters, police and ambulance drivers a Heroes Discount, too. Fundraisers are another way the folks at Bad Martha give back and support the community. Thanks to the Falmouth location’s year-round business, Flanders says off-season events become the focus in the fall and winter. Bad Martha often offers up their space for local fundraisers, as well as provides merchandise to fill raffles. “That’s the culture of craft beer. It’s always going to be more affordable to go out and buy Budweiser, but when you buy from Bad Martha, that money goes back into your community, in the form of local employment and the businesses we partner with and the nonprofits we support. That’s really the focus here; be a local business, give back to the community and be a part of something here at home.”
For more information, visit badmarthabeer.com.
Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery won gold in our 2020 Best Of! Check it out here!