Situated off the south coast of Cape Cod within Tradewind’s regular charter and shuttle routes, Martha’s Vineyard has maintained a hyperlocal focus throughout its recently burgeoning brewery scene. Apart from hiring local residents and using ingredients from across the island, the beer purveyors of Martha’s Vineyard have given back to their tight-knit community in myriad ways from the beginning.
In downtown Oak Bluffs, the island’s neighborly atmosphere is evident at Offshore Ale Company, the Vineyard’s first brewery (opened in 1997). Family-owned and operated, it’s a lively, nautically-themed establishment that residents love to frequent for its complimentary peanuts, brewpub-style seafood, live music, and, of course, its award-winning pints (many of which are named after Martha’s Vineyard icons and landmarks).
The brewery has also long dedicated itself to giving back to the community by donating a portion of its proceeds to various local organizations. Since 2009, Offshore’s “Pints for a Purpose” program has given a percentage of its sales from their East Chop Lighthouse and Menemsha Creek pale ales to benefit the Coast Guard Foundation, and profits from their West Coast-style Lazy Frog IPA aid in financing the island’s disc golf course.
Likewise, their popular late-summer Blue Lobster Belgian Strong Ale supports funding for the independently-operated MVY Radio, and their annual Dine-To-Donate events help a rotating roster of charitable groups (this year’s recipient was Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, a theater-focused nonprofit).
On the northeast side of the island, just five miles south of Offshore Ale Company, patrons of Bad Martha are encouraged to live on the wild side as they kick back with one of the brewery’s small-batch libations. But contrary to their name, doing good is one of Bad Martha’s core values. Since establishing the Edgartown mainstay in 2014, owner Jonathan Blum has left his corporate background behind on the mainland in favor of the Vineyard’s longstanding tradition in fostering intimate island connections.
Churning out over 40 unique barley pops in any given year, Bad Martha sources their signature flavors almost exclusively from the island’s bountiful harvests, while simultaneously supporting local family-owned ventures.
“Since the beginning, we’ve tried to use as many local ingredients as possible, and that’s pretty much whatever we’ve been able to get our hands on, from blueberry to cherries to beach plums to honey,” says Bad Martha operations manager Josh Flanders. “Speaking of honey,” he adds, “there’s Honey Helles lager, one of our fan favorites that sells out in the summer about a week after we brew it. With the number of honey and bee farms on the island, we take as much as we can from them.”
Other popular beers include a stout crafted with chocolate from Not Your Sugar Mamas confectionary shop, a coffee porter made with beans from Chilmark Coffee Company, and a refreshing jalapeno and cucumber lager sourced from the 65 acres of nearby Morning Glory Farm. “We’ve taken to calling that one Shark Bite,” Flanders says. “That’s a unique beer people get really excited for. They ask for it all year long.”
Regardless of the season and its corresponding batch, Bad Martha recycles their spent grain byproduct from each brew by giving it to local farmers for livestock feed. “We’re directly tying our brewing to not only the ingredients we’re getting in, but also giving those ingredients back out,” Flanders explains. “There’s plenty of nutrition left in the grain after that early brewing process, so it’s really a win-win for having a way to get rid of it and helping farmers save some cost in feeding their animals, and making those pigs and cows happy.”
The brewery’s philanthropic gestures are appreciated by plenty of humans, too, from Puerto Rico relief efforts after Hurricane Maria to fundraisers closer to home, like the annual Fluke for Luke tournament (a memorial fishing event honoring a local who passed away in a boat accident in 2016). “We’ll donate beer here and there, or anything else we can offer. Usually it’s beer, because that’s what we’ve got,” Flanders laughs, adding that if an organization wants to use the taproom space for fundraising events, the brewery offers it free of charge.
But Bad Martha’s biggest contribution comes toward the end of every year, when they give a bulk percentage of their annual profits to Island Food Pantry, a Vineyard nonprofit helping residents in need by providing basic nutrition. Around last Christmas, they were able to present a $7,500 check to the charity during a time of year when such resources are most needed.
“Craft beer is a luxury item,” Flanders says. “We’re happy to provide it but there are people out there who aren’t thinking about drinking craft beer, but about how to feed themselves and their family. We can’t improve their lives just by being a business, so I think it’s important for us to give back to those people as well, the people who are really in need in the community.”
Tradewind offers regularly scheduled shuttles to Martha’s Vineyard from May through November (with up to 15 flights per day Thursday through Monday), as well as private charters year-round.
All photos courtesy of Bad Martha.