Alameda a la carte: Alameda Island Brewing Company

Alameda a la carte: Alameda Island Brewing Company

Cheryl Connick

Photo by Cheryl Connick.

Alameda has built a reputation as a destination for wine and spirits enthusiasts, one the city has actively encouraged by working to create and promote a community of winemakers and distillers who line Monarch Street on Alameda Point. The Island got its first brewery in the fall of 2013, when Faction Brewing joined the lineup of artisans offering finely crafted hooch and million dollar views of San Francisco.

At the same time, Park Street has become home to a growing assortment of eateries and drinking establishments, with the most recent additions including Wine and Waffles and the Cinema Grill, which serves a lineup of cocktails and other beverages that can be enjoyed in the restaurant or while viewing a movie next door. What Park Street lacked was a brewery where hops lovers could enjoy some high quality suds.

But that space is now being ably filled by the brand-new Alameda Island Brewing Company, a welcome addition to Park Street and the Island that sits on the old Cavanaugh Motors spot just a stone’s throw from the Park Street Bridge. The long-awaited brewery and pub (the building’s owner became a poster child for what some had regarded as the city’s stringent planning process) opened with limited hours on February 22, and a grand opening is anticipated for sometime in early April.

Just as the brewery’s window signs advertised, Prohibition in Alameda is indeed over. What a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than sipping beer and spending time with your friends?

The brewery is the brainchild of Alameda native Jennifer Fox and her husband, Matthew, who Fox met when he was stationed here with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Sixteen years later, here we are,” she said.

He started brewing in their Southern California kitchen nine years ago, founding a home brew club after his wife moved operations out into the garage. Pretty soon, Matthew Fox’s beer and cider were winning awards.

Fox said she and her husband took the opportunity to open a brewery when it presented itself (they’ve partnered with Bill Phua, who owns the building where they’re located), and she said they’re happy to be back home in Alameda – a community that she said is supportive of local businesses.

We entered the brewery through a large aluminum gate (it’s festooned with a sail, like the City of Alameda flag) that opened onto an outdoor courtyard. This is just to the right of the red star decal in the window. The star is the only signage on the place, which makes it a little hard to find.

When we arrived on a recent Saturday afternoon there was a crowd outside, all enjoying a beer or three. Being a gorgeous day – perfect beer-drinking weather – there wasn’t a seat to be found. Apparently, word had got out that the brewery was finally open.

We meandered inside to find a bright, airy space dotted with reclaimed wood tables. The communal tables are farm style with benches; there are skinnier, bar height areas tucked around the columns. The place is very clean – it’s the inaugural tenant in a new building constructed over the past few years.

We were greeted by a server who just happened to be walking by — the brewery doesn’t have a hostess stand. He was very friendly and explained that this was a soft opening and they were planning on adding more tables (all of the tables inside were full too, and there was no place for the three of us to sit down). No problem — we went over to the bar, which had a blackboard behind it listing all of the brewery’s beers and a refrigerator that was full of growlers to take home.

It was fun to check out the pub’s brewing area, which is to the right of the bar. The floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel like you are sitting amongst the stainless steel vats — the beer doesn’t get any fresher than this!

We all ordered the sampler flight, which included five beers for $7. The server made a great suggestion to get the additional $1.50 sampler of the Sea Haggis, which is a Scotch ale.

Beers are offered by the pint at the pub, or by the growler, which can be taken home. (A growler is an amber colored glass container that holds 64 ounces of beer — you buy it once, take it home and bring it back to be refilled.)

We were enthusiastically instructed to drink the flight from lightest to darkest (left to right). It starts with Cavanaugh Kolsch, a golden colored beer that is named after Cavanaugh Motors. The next beer is Control, Alt, Delete –a low-alcohol session beer at 5.5 percent alcohol by volume – followed by Exiled, a wheat and oat beer with a finish of honey and molasses.

The last two beers are Neptune’s Pale Ale and Alameda’s IPA. The pale ale, named after Neptune Beach, is hoppy without being overpowering, and the IPA is dark without being bitter and has a higher alcohol content at 7.5 percent. We enjoyed all of the beers and commented that they weren’t too hoppy.

The pub’s one downside was its lack of food. We always like to have a nibble or two when drinking, but we understand that this is a brewery and tasting room, and not a restaurant or pub. I did notice, though, that other patrons were eating pizza that they brought in from East End Pizza down the street (which is genius)!

Fox said the brewery doesn’t plan to offer food, though she and her husband are hopeful that a restaurant will open next door in their Park Street home. She said patrons can bring in food from any of Park Street’s eateries to enjoy with their beer.

Alameda Island Brewing Company, 1716 Park Street. Open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 11 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.