BAR CRAWLER: Raising hell on wheels in the Island City
BAR CRAWLER Rumored to have given birth to the snow cone, the Popsicle, and the Kewpie doll back in its amusement park days, Alameda still gives off a summery island vibe. (With Playland at the Beach, Oakland's Idora Park, and Alameda's Neptune Beach, the primary mode of transportation in the Bay used to be a Big Dipper. Picture rush hour.) The golden sun, rad flea market, and laid-back neighborhoods — well, the place screams "stay a while." So you may as well get drunk. FYI, the flatlands crawl works best on a bike, but if you soldier up and walk it, you don't risk getting tipsy and bloody — to each her own. (Caitlin Donohue)
No, you're not driving out there. Hop the ferry, 'cause guess what? It's the first stop on the crawl. Take advantage of the bracing winds to order a beer, or better yet, a bay-ready cocktail. Affable bartenders will recommend a bloody or one of the Campari concoctions that sometimes make the specials board. Take your sweet-ass time and ascend to the top deck with your glass — you have 30 to 45 minutes to kill coming from San Francisco. Once you disembark, you'll be flush with the possibility of a new island lifestyle. Steady on captain, much boozing lies ahead.
Departs from SF Ferry Building, Pier 41, and Jack London Square. www.eastbayferry.com
ST. GEORGE SPIRITS
Surprise! Not only is Alameda a great bar town, it's also home to a burgeoning alcohol-making district. The island's northwestern blocks — once the Naval Air Station and still fetchingly speckled at the edges with behemoth military boats — went through an era of tumbleweed rule but are now being reinvigorated by pioneer businesses that enjoy the commercial, wide-open spaces that only airplane hangers can provide. St. George Spirits moved here in 2004 and now produces pleasant, not-too-cloying Hangar One-flavored vodkas (mandarin blossom and chipotle versions are amazing), absinthe, superlative Firelit coffee liqueur, and more. Check out the $15 tasting menu in the jovial tasting room and toast to Alameda with every tiny, long-stemmed glass the good saint presents you with.
2601 Monarch, Alameda. (510) 769-1601, www.stgeorgespirits.com
ROCK WALL WINES
Don't worry if your St. George tasting ended with a disorienting absinthe-root beer closer — you don't have far to bike to the next stop on the crawl. A few hangars over, step into the sleek tasting room of Rock Wall Wines, where you can order flights of swishes from Rock Wall's father-daughter team plus nine other small wineries that share production space next door in the massive urban vintner hangar-hangout. Feel good about supporting the little guys along with another chance to sample an array of finely-crafted local booze.
2301 Monarch, Suite No. 300, Alameda. (510) 522-5700, www.rockwallwineco.com