To kick off a new year of Bay Area brewery tours, I decided to explore a cluster of exciting breweries near San Francisco’s Bay Bridge. These breweries are serving up mate-infused beer on Treasure Island, a gluten-free cocoa puff stout at a taproom near the last onramp and a Korean-style lager at the Ferry Building.
Woods Island Club
My first stop was Woods Island Club on Treasure Island, situated inside a beautiful art deco building with a small museum, a 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’s the first mate-infused beer of its kind. They’ve gone on to open five San Francisco locations, with two more set to open later this year in the upper Haight and in San Anselmo. In addition to MateVeza, they also make nearly three dozen beers and hard cider, including the usual IPAs, double IPAs and hazies and lagers, plus other mate-infused beers.
The company also makes its own wine and a series of co-fermented beer-wine hybrids under the Divine Origins name. I tried the Divine Origins Sauvignon Blanc, and it is 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 from 1 to 7 p.m. weekends at 1 Avenue of the Palms on Treasure Island; woodsbeer.com/island-club.
Black Hammer Brewing
This San Francisco brewery sits near the Bryant Street onramp for the Bay Bridge. Taproom boasts a charming interior filled with colored lights, humorous signs, board games and comfortable seating. Outside, there’s a mini-beer garden that includes a foosball table, as well as seating.
The brewery was founded in 2015 by Jim Furman, originally a nuclear engineer from Connecticut. A chance contract to work three months in San Jose turned into three years, and he decided he was never leaving California. After home brewing for 20 years, he started entering every home-brew competition he could, hoping to increase his brewing street cred and attract investors. Ultimately, it proved successful.
Furman keeps 16 beers on tap, from Mexican lagers to pastry stouts — all gluten free. His best-selling beer is Cuddle Puddle, a hazy IPA, followed closely by Sparkle Pony, a Belgian-style blonde ale. A few of my favorites were Breakfast of Champions, a 10 percent breakfast milk stout brewed with cocoa puffs, peanut butter Cap’n Crunch, and milk sugar; West Coast 6, a traditional West Coast IPA; Petal Pusher, a Belgian-style ale brewed with lavender and citrus; and Puck Futin, described as a Ukrainian anti-imperial stout.
They also serve craft empanadas from El Sur, gluten-free frittatas, quiches from Nucha and warm soft pretzel sticks served with grain mustard. They’re child and dog-friendly, and trivia buffs will want to know there’s a trivia night every Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Details: Opens at noon daily at 544 Bryant St. in San Francisco; blackhammerbrewing.com.
Fort Point Ferry Building
Fort Point Beer Co. began as Mill Valley Beerworks, first opened by home brewers Justin and Tyler Catalana, who later teamed up with Dina Dobkin to open Fort Point Beer Co. in the Presidio in 2015. They later opened their first taproom in San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building, followed by a taproom on Valencia Street and a production facility in the Presidio.
The Embarcadero taproom is an excellent spot to sip a beer and watch the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s seating as well as a walk-up window, where people can order from about eight beers on draft, hard cider, wine, a few non-alcoholic drinks and a food menu that includes crab rolls and fancy hot dogs.
Their most popular beer is KSA, a take on the refreshing German Kölsch. They have six core beers and a few regular collaborations, such as SHW, a Korean-style lager, and Tuzenbier, a Bavarian-style lager made for the German restaurant Suppenküche. The other core 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, Westfalia, a Nuremberg Red Ale.
Details: Opens at 11 a.m. daily at 1 Ferry Building in San Francisco; fortpointbeer.com.
Contact Jay R. Brooks at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com.