Woods Polk Station, one of upper Polk Street’s newest bars, is also one of San Francisco’s smallest bars.
Sandwiched between two other new businesses—a juice shop and a taco/tequila joint (what more could you want?)—Woods Polk Station specializes in yerba maté-infused beers and empanades with a maximum audience of no more than a couple dozen people.
“Americans are not used to small spaces, but we like them because they feel cozy” says Jim Woods, founder of MateVeza Yearba Mate Ale and owner of Cevezeria near Dolores Park.
And indeed, the soft lighting and wood-paneled walls, complete with a backlit Coors sign featuring a snowy mountain scene, has the feel of a small chalet in the Alps or hip party in a well-decorated $3,000 studio flat in the Mission.
This party, however, also features five beers created by MateVeza Yerba Mate Ale on tap at any given time and a small selection of wines.
While the maté-beer combo may seem at first like a ploy, it goes far beyond a mere merger between two popular beverages. The maté, aside from leaving a nice caffeine buzz to outbalance any beer sleepiness, has a dry finish. This effect, says Woods, “invites the drinker to move seamlessly from one sip to the next”.
There are currently five varieties of house-brewed beers available. The Matéveza Yerba Maté IPA is a bestseller. The Vintage Morpho ’11 is another Maté brew that incorporates strong herbal flavors and notes of hibiscus. The Arctic Barley Wine is an especially strong brew, named after the ales brought on journeys to the Arctic that needed to be of a higher alcohol content simply so that they would not freeze in the cold weather, and the Hopped Wheat has its own distinctions from the average wheat beer.
Woods first discovered the combo of maté and beer after his cousin went to Argentina and brought him back some yerba maté to try. Woods was also drinking a beer at the time of consumption and had a Eureka moment when he found the two mixed well together.
At first, Woods experimented with a home brew kit before partnership with Mendocino Brewing Co., which started selling the beer in stores throughout the Bay Area. Later, he found the perfect location to put a face to the product on the corner of Church St. and 18th St., right by beer-swilling enclave Dolores Park, where he opened Cevezeria.
Now on Polk St., Woods continues to expand with plans to open a bar in Oakland in the works. Even so, he offers a warning, these beverages can be “harmful to your health considering how little sleep you get and how much beer you drink”.
Woods Polk Station is located at 2255 Polk St. @ Green; Cerveceria is located at 3801-18th St. @ Church