Brewery Spotlight: Woods Beer – San Francisco, CA
Woods Beer Company is a small brewery with two locations in San Francisco and a third in Oakland.
50 Campfires caught up with Director of Operations LM Schnaubelt and founder and CEO Jim Woods at Woods Cervecería, located in San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District—styled after a rustic Argentine estancia—to chat about the unique ingredients they use in the brews, and colorful history of Woods Beer Company.
Tell us a little about your brewery, the types of beers that you brew, and what you feel makes your brewery unique.
Woods Beer is a craft brewing company in San Francisco. We brew small batches of fresh, exciting, and experimental beers, often in collaboration with our friends in the Bay Area’s vibrant food and drink world. Our inspiration comes from far and wide, but our beers are deeply rooted here. Our approach is unconventional but our work is accessible and friendly: Adventurous brews for curious drinkers.
What is your most popular/flagship beer? What makes it great?
Our flagship is MateVeza Yerba Mate IPA, an India Pale Ale brewed with the South American tea. The yerba mate provides an earthy finish along with a mate buzz. MateVeza began a tradition of brewing with unique ingredients.
We love hearing stories about how breweries got their start. What’s the history behind yours?
I brewed my first beer at age sixteen during the summer of my sophomore year in high school. It seemed like the easiest way to get beer.
I was living in Lafayette at the time, and I found Oak Barrel Winecraft in Berkeley in the Yellow Pages under “brewing supplies.” I took my best friend Brian and my parents’ Ford station wagon. We showed up just before closing time—typical Friday-afternoon traffic—and tried to act cool.
Oak Barrel legend Homer Smith was behind the counter. He was very friendly and advised me to purchase a starter package along with an American Ale extract kit. I plunked down close to one hundred dollars (lifeguarding money) and Brian and I loaded the car with large brown bags full of magical syrup, pellets, and powder.
We decided to brew at my parents’ house the following Friday. Both of my parents worked, so we figured we could boil it up and transfer to the glass carboy before either of them arrived home. Unfortunately, our plan was foiled. The beer took ages to boil—then boiled over. My mom came home just as we were adding the aroma hops. Once they splashed the surface of the boil, they unleashed a pungent aroma that I was sure could be smelled throughout our whole suburban block. My mother forgave me for using her five-gallon pot, helped us clean up the boil over, and promised not to tell my dad.
We hid the carboy in our garage, tucked behind several blankets on an old workbench. My father wasn’t very handy; he never found it. On the day we bottled the American Ale, however, we brewed a Russian Red Ale recipe from Oak Barrel and left it in the same place. A week into fermentation my father happened upon the glass carboy. In a rage, he picked up a baseball bat and threatened to smash it to pieces. “Wait!” I pleaded. “Here’s our first batch—try it.” He loved it, and agreed to look the other way as long as he had access to the fruits of our labor. We considered it a fatherly excise tax.
My parents were conveniently out of town the next weekend, so Brian and I planned a beer-debut party. It was the first time I’d ever tasted beer (or any alcohol for that matter). Drinking beer I had brewed myself at the age of sixteen was one of the most divine things I’ve ever experienced.
We love meeting people who share our passion for the outdoors. Tell us a bit about the folks involved with your brewery, and what they enjoy doing outdoors.
Our Oakland staff is full of serious campers. Our brewer Sam Bennett camps regularly, our bartender and cellarperson Molly Armstrong is more of a backpacker who has been making her way through the Point Reyes National Seashore trails of late and I camp once a month usually at one of my favorite beach campgrounds. Other than camping, Paul (cellarperson) and Rey (media and bartender) are big cyclists, Sam Gill (SF manager and brewer) is a serious Ocean Beach surfer, and we all get out and about quite a bit. I think that’s something that happens when you live in tiny apartments in a big, beautiful city with Marin only a 30 mile bike ride away. We are certainly a crew of bike-riding adventurers.
Last summer all of the ladies in the company camped at the Yuba River and we certainly packed enough crowlers for a crowd. I attached a few pics from that trip. The hike down to the river is STUNNING and we chilled our crowlers in the river water. Next ladies camping trip is in the works for Half Moon Beach!
Is your beer available in cans?
We package our beer in 32oz aluminum “Crowler” cans at our Dolores Park location.
Where can we find your beer?
Cervecería, 18th and Church St., San Francisco
Polk Station, Polk and Green St., San Francisco
Woods Bar and Brewery, 17th and Telegraph, Oakland
If people want more info about your brewery, where can they go?
You can check our website at woodsbeer.com.
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