To kick off a new year of brewery tours in the Bay Area, I decided to explore a group of exciting breweries near San Francisco’s Bay Bridge. These breweries serve mate-infused beer on Treasure Island, a gluten-free flaky cocoa stout at a bar near the last entrance ramp, and a Korean-style lager at the Ferry Building.
Woods Island Club
My first stop was the Woods Island Club on Treasure Island, located in a beautiful art deco building with a small museum, distillery, and great views of the bay. The taproom opened in March 2022.
Woods Beer & Wine Co. is the brainchild of Jim Woods and Matt Coelho, who opened their first brewery in the Mission District in 2012. Woods’ first big success was with MateVeza IPA, a beer made with the popular South American tea, yerba mate. . It is the first mate-infused beer of this type. They then opened five locations in San Francisco, with two more expected to open later this year in the Upper Haight and San Anselmo. In addition to MateVeza, they also make nearly three dozen hard beers and ciders, including the usual IPAs, double IPAs, hazies, and lagers, as well as other mate-infused beers.
The company also produces its own wine and a series of co-fermented beer-wine hybrids under the name Divine Origins. I tried the Divine Origins Sauvignon Blanc, and it’s easily one of the best hybrid beers I’ve ever enjoyed – and very tasty alongside one of the club’s locally made empanadas.
Details: Open 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekends at 1 Avenue of the Palms on Treasure Island; woodsbeer.com/island-club.
Brewing the Black Hammer
This San Francisco brewery is located near the Bryant Street on-ramp to the Bay Bridge. Taproom has a charming interior filled with colorful lights, humorous signs, board games and comfortable seating. Outside there is a mini beer garden which includes a foosball table and seating.
The brewery was founded in 2015 by Jim Furman, originally a nuclear engineer from Connecticut. A three-month job contract in San Jose turned into three years and he decided he would never leave California. After 20 years of homebrewing, he began entering every homebrewing competition possible, hoping to increase his credibility in the brewing field and attract investors. Ultimately, it proved successful.
Furman offers 16 beers on tap, from Mexican lagers to pastry stouts, all gluten-free. Its best-selling beer is Cuddle Puddle, a hazy IPA, followed closely by Sparkle Pony, a Belgian-style lager. A few of my favorites were Breakfast of Champions, a 10% breakfast milk stout brewed with cocoa puffs, Cap’n Crunch peanut butter and milk sugar; West Coast 6, a traditional West Coast IPA; Petal Pusher, a Belgian-style beer brewed with lavender and citrus; and Puck Futin, described as a fat, anti-imperial Ukrainian.
They also serve artisan empanadas from El Sur, gluten-free frittatas, quiches from Nucha, and warm soft pretzel sticks served with grainy mustard. They’re kid and dog friendly, and quiz fans will want to know that there’s a quiz night every Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Details: Opens daily at noon at 544 Bryant St. in San Francisco; blackhammerbrewing.com.
Fort Point Ferry Building
Fort Point Beer Co. began life as Mill Valley Beerworks, first opened by homebrewers Justin and Tyler Catalana, who then teamed up with Dina Dobkin to open Fort Point Beer Co. in the Presidio in 2015. They then opened their first brewery in San Francisco. historic Ferry Building, followed by a tasting room on Valencia Street and a production facility in the Presidio.
The Embarcadero Brewery is a great place to sip a beer and watch the hustle and bustle of the city. There is seating as well as a walk-up window, where people can order about eight beers on tap, hard cider, wine, a few soft drinks and a menu including crab rolls and hot- refined dogs.
Their most popular beer is KSA, a refreshing version of German Kölsch. They have six main beers and a few regular collaborations, like SHW, a Korean-style lager, and Tuzenbier, a Bavarian-style lager made for the German restaurant Suppenküche. Other main beers include Sfizio, an Italian-style pilsner; Lobos, a hazy IPA; Animal, a tropical IPA; Villager, a San Francisco-style IPA; and what was probably my favorite, the Westfalia, a Nuremberg Red Ale.
Details: Opens daily at 11 a.m. at 1 Ferry Building in San Francisco; fortpointbeer.com.
Contact Jay R. Brooks at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com.
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