It is hot. We plop down on blue beach chairs, kick off our sandals and slide our bare toes into the warm sand. A steady beat hums out of nearby speakers, not loud enough to disturb conversation — background soundtrack tunes. Everyone around us is in shorts, with sunglasses and bare feet. We sip on cold beer and admire the view.
In any other coastal city, today could be any day in the height of summer. In the Bay Area, it is one of the few such days we get every year, usually once the calendar slips into early fall. And, it turns out, this day was the perfect one to visit the new Woods Island Club, on Treasure Island’s Clipper Cove.
The brewery, which splits its time and brewing spaces between Oakland and San Francisco, opened this “beer beach,” in July, a mid-point between the company’s two homes. (Oakland’s Woods Bar & Brewery opened in Uptown in 2014.) Founder Jim Woods told us that the Island Club is a perfect mix of San Francisco and Oakland, bringing together beer drinkers from both sides of the Bay.
It should be noted, and embraced, that the Island Club does tend to have Oakland’s luck with sunny weather, so even on a day without a heat advisory in place, the mostly outdoor venue is still enjoyable.
Woods invited us in for a tour and tasting of the Island Club’s beers on tap, which include unique, island-only brews like the Golden Spyglass, a barrel-fermented golden ale. Woods Brewery favorites including the MateVeza IPA and Morpho Herbal Ale, a tart, hop-less, “gruit”-style beer, are also available. And when they have it, look out for the Local Honey, a pale ale made with, well, local honey. Its herby, floral nose and flavor evoke at once thyme, rosemary and lavender — an herbes de Provence blend, if you will — with a gentle, vanilla-like backbone. It is curious and delicious.
Besides offering plenty of outdoor drinking space (and a cooler, sun-free indoor bar), the Woods Island Club is a place where the brewery gets to experiment with aging and barrel fermentation. Woods said that he is not sure of the long-term future of their location, which is in an old airplane hangar, so he has chosen not to move in a full slew of brewing equipment. Rather, his focus on barrel projects keeps things nimble.
Currently in barrels are batches of India pale ales and Morpho, as well as other beers, like Golden Spyglass, that spend the entire fermentation process in old wine barrels. Barrel fermentation, said Woods, allows for different esters (flavors) to develop than through barrel aging alone, and the micro-oxidation that occurs due to the barrel’s porous walls, “works like sandpaper, smoothing out flavors.”
The Island Club’s vast interior space also allows for other experiments, like a surprisingly smooth and easy-drinking experiment in a natural wine and beer mashup. Last year, the Woods team crushed wine grapes and then added a recipe for dunkelweisen beer straight on top of it. The natural yeast present in the wine grapes, rather than a lab strain or natural beer yeast, fermented the brew. The result is a sort of fruity, sort of malty, and exceptionally food-friendly beverage.
This batch never made it on tap, but Woods said he and his team are working on larger batches of the drink that will soon be publicly available. This year’s grapes include albariño and mourvedre, both grown in local vineyards.
Visitors to the Island Club are welcome to bring outside food for snacking, but the brewery does also offer empanadas from El Porteño, as at its other locations. Food trucks and other pop-ups, such as chef Matthew Kirk’s German-influenced Oktoberfest Automat pop-up on Oct. 1, also make appearances on alternating weekends.
Through the end of October, the Island Club is open from 12-6 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with additional hours added for events like the Fleet Week Airshow and the Treasure Island Music Festival. Hours later this fall will be posted on the website. Children and dogs are welcome with supervision.
Check out the Nosh Guide for our mercifully short directory of places we, and Nosh readers, like to eat and drink!
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