Treasure Island is many things.
It’s a man-made pile of rubble, a toxic former naval base, the site of a music festival (that’s about to wave bye-bye), the name of a controversial gay porn company in SoMa, a Robert Louis Stevenson novel about pirates that gave the world Long John Silver, the home of a surprising number of wineries, and the place that stood in for a Nazi-era Berlin airport in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
And now it’s got a beer beach.
Woods Beer Co. — best known for Woods Bar & Brewery in Uptown Oakland, Woods Polk Station in Russian Hill, and the tiny Cerveceria de Mate Veza near Dolores Park — has taken over an old airplane hangar on the southeastern shore of Treasure Island, overlooking Yerba Buena Island and much of the Bay Bridge’s eastern span, to open Woods Island Club. Although it functions as the tap room, with upright barrel tables amid the racks of horizontal barrels dutifully aging their fermented contents — and Futura as the typeface on the taps — the hangar itself is otherwise short on accoutrements. But you need only cross a bit of asphalt to the adult version of a sandbox, complete with chairs, cornhole, shade, and beach babes of all genders.
Bikini Atoll it is not; you can reserve a section for a private party, but you’d better enjoy stretching out on the sand with the same density of strangers you’d find in a busy bar. Even factoring in the fine particles of silica, it’s not a traditional watering hole, which means that kids and dogs are welcome, and food trucks may station themselves nearby. And while situated on the leeward side of the isle, and certainly farther from the fog’s clutches than Ocean Beach, a stiff maritime wind may blow.
One further caveat is that, while the beer beach contains plenty of sand and palm trees, it’s technically not a beach. It doesn’t abut the shoreline, so you can’t roll your cuffs mid-calf and wade into the Bay with a beer in your hand. (A minor point, but still.)
The other is that this is not an especially convenient spot. As of now, Woods Island is open only from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (plus Labor Day) through the end of September, so even if you displayed the enormous gumption it would take to round up a few friends for happy hour and drive to Treasure Island, that option is not yours to grab. It would be a spectacular place for a party, though.
But even with all of that said, this whole concept is a winning idea, and because you’ll never need to shout to make yourself heard, it’s probably more fun when it’s packed. There are eight beers to try, all of them sessionable (or nearly so) at 7 percent ABV or less. (You have to open a tab on your card, though, as Woods Island doesn’t accept cash.)
The lavender-forward Local Honey Pale Ale is a sweet, rounded way to start, but if you want to go strong and hard, the Island Club Sour is fruitier yet fuller, intense with the whirl of wild bacteria. Invigorating and slightly astringent, the MateVeza IPA is more mentholated than the typical representative of its category, owing to the Argentine tea known as yerba mate. Most pale gingers avoid the sun as much as possible, but Woods’ refreshing Ginger Pale is a great one to sip on while inducing your skin to produce melanin. And while the yeasty notes of the Island Club Saison are described as being “sharp as a cutlass,” we found it to be funkier and less capable of slicing off a limb than that, although X definitely marked the spot.
Treasure Island is littered with abandoned barracks and other relics of the Second World War, and the history of what is now Woods Island Club shines through in curious ways. Walk around the corner from the counter to the restroom and you’ll pass a metal door marked “SEA CADETS CARL VINSON DIV.” That sort of sounds like a militarized squadron of mermaids, although it probably has something to do with the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier. In any case, the military-industrial complex is nowhere to be seen. In its place, we have a small-batch brewery embodying the philosophy that life’s a beach.
Woods Island Club 422 Clipper Cove Way Treasure Island woodsbeer.com/islandclub