In characteristic fashion, Woods couldn’t resist making his new storage facility into a bar.
“The beach was a no-brainer,” says Woods, though he had to bring in 50 tons of sand to create it. He also got a 35-foot palm tree — a free sidewalk giveaway from elsewhere on the island.
Something about the Woods Island Club feels makeshift, unformed. The sign is hard to spot. The warehouse feels pretty empty. Aside from the aforementioned sand and palm tree, there’s not much in the way of vegetation or other decor to achieve a full beachy effect. You’re acutely aware that you’re kind of sitting in a parking lot. As far as we could tell, there was just one employee working, and he was profoundly good-natured, exuding that combination of geekiness and snarkiness that seems particular to craft brewery employees.
For example, we asked him why they opened a brewery on Treasure Island. His response: “Because we’re pirates.”
Jim Woods’ first great beer, which remains the company’s flagship, is the MateVeza IPA ($6/16 ounces), brewed with yerba mate. A longtime drinker of the bitter, herbal South American tea, Woods had a revelation during college that the bitterness of mate could supplement hops bitterness in a beer.
“In beer, you need to balance the sweetness of the malt, but hops bitterness can be a little bit angular,” Woods says. “So in the IPA we reduce the amount of bittering hops, and the mate is doing some of the lifting, in a softer way.”
Joining the mate chorus now is the Morpho Herbal Ale ($7), which is brewed with mate, bay leaf and hibiscus and includes virtually no hops. So high is its mate content, Woods claims, that it packs as much caffeine as a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola or half a cup of coffee. Dark fuchsia in color, it’s weird and delicious, with a Framboise-like quality, lightly sour and sweet with floral berry flavors.
That’s a Woods Beer signature, in fact: embracing funky, offbeat ingredients like these without producing an excessively offbeat-tasting beer.
Its seasonally released Girl Scout Cookie beers are a great example of this. Or take the Golden Spyglass ($8), fermented with the brettanomyces yeast — yet hardly tasting of the typical barnyard but rather of vanilla cream and pungent mint.
Or the Local Honey Pale Ale ($7), inspired by honey produced specifically by the bees on one Woods brewer’s Mission District roof. Those bees pollinated eucalyptus, lavender and yarrow, which now serve as infusions in the ale. (Since honey ferments, it couldn’t have been the flavor additive itself.) Intensely aromatic, the beer wafts a floral perfume, its bitterness manifesting as fennel flavor.
The Island Club has encouraging precedents: A number of wineries already operate successful tasting rooms on Treasure Island. One even has a bocce court, adjacent to Woods’ lot. “We’re all hoping people start to see Treasure Island as more of a destination,” he says.
It doesn’t even have to be a destination. Many San Franciscans may not realize quite how easy it is to get to Treasure Island. There’s plenty of parking. The 25 bus runs every 20 minutes from Transbay Terminal. The city promises that the bike path on the Oakland-Treasure Island portion of the Bay Bridge will be open by the end of the month. I recently took a Lyft there from the Mission and it was just $21, during a 50 percent surge.