The last thing you might expect to find at an old, abandoned naval base is a craft spirits revolution. But, that’s what Alameda’s Spirits Alley looks like today. Once a naval air station for over 18,000 personnel, Alameda Point is now home to two spirits distilleries, two wineries and a brewery, a driving force in the nationwide upswell of craft booze, in a very unique setting. Cocktail geeks and spirits lovers who may be visiting San Francisco for the second or third time will not want to miss Spirits Alley. The up-and-coming island is attracting locals too, thanks to its way-cheaper rent and growing drinking scene.
For those willing to take the hike (or rather, 20-minute ferry ride) over to the small East Bay island, you should bring your bike or grab an Uber from the Alameda Ferry station to Monarch Street to start your long day of sipping and awe at how you never knew this boozy heaven existed.
You’ll want to take your Uber to St. George Spirits, since St. George is the mother of Spirits Alley. Call ahead to make a reservation for your adults-only party to get a tour of the distillery, which will include some very Wonka-esque distilling equipment and a storied history of absinthe in America. That will be topped off with a tasting of a number of the brand’s craft spirits and a fancy pour of said absinthe that clouds up magically upon contact with the ice in the glass. If there’s a better way to kick off a weekend morning, I’d like to know what that is.
Once you’re feeling good and have learned a ton about spirits, head over to Faction Brewing to kick off the afternoon with some suds. The husband-and-wife team behind Faction Brewing use the slogan “Come for the beer; stay for the view,” which you will do for a while, because the brewery has a clear shot of the San Francisco skyline with only a bird sanctuary and the Bay in the way. And, they have daily food trucks (like The Grilled Cheez Guy or Burnt Ends BBQ) offering the perfect fuel for continuing your stumble.
Then it’s vodka time, and Hangar One has you completely covered. Book an appointment in advance for a tasting and tour of the facility, and bask in the botanical science vibe complete with style elements from retro-era aircrafts. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a pour from Hangar One’s master distiller and head creative mind behind the Distiller’s Exclusives, Caley Shoemaker.
Once you’ve had your fill of spirits for the moment, it’s time to switch to wine. Building 43 Winery is a winemaking facility and tasting room that brings the best of California to a unique industrial hangar in Alameda. Tod Hickman and Meredith Coghlan, who both, fittingly, have a history with both wine and the navy, partnered to bring us a selection of a dozen or so wines from different parts of the state.
Rock Wall Wine Company is your final stop on your tour of Spirits Alley. This winery also sources grapes from all over California to make wine inside the hangar, the name of which comes from the rock wall built to protect the naval base from Japanese torpedoes in WWII—all in a 40,000 square foot warehouse used for winemaking and housing their tasting room, which is open seven days a week. After you taste, finish by filling up on the sizeable classic cheeseburger and it’s sweet and fluffy challah bun at Rock Wall’s on-site restaurant Scolari’s at the Point.