Tapland’s owner, Matt Hartenstein (photo by Dale Swanson)

Taplands Bottle Shop and Neighborhood Brewery in Santa Clara, open just under a year, is quickly becoming a favorite destination for beer tasters and tinkerers across Silicon Valley.

The tap room’s founder and head keg tapper, Matt Hartenstein, is a self-proclaimed “beer geek” and homebrewer since 1991 (which he describes as the “Craft Beer 1.0” days). I sat down with Matt to talk about current trends in the world of beer and ask what he thinks of the bubbling local brewing scene in Silicon Valley.

Hartenstein poured me a Blood Orange Sour from Hermitage Brewing in San Jose before we settled into the interview, but warned me not to oversell it to Six Fifty readers — Taplands has 24 taps, 22 of which are in constant rotation. If you walk in and ask for the Blood Orange Hermitage tomorrow, they may already be onto the next sour. That constant rotation (four to eight kegs a day) keeps customers intrigued and constantly learning.

Speaking of sours, that’s where our conversation began:

The Six Fifty: Sour beers. Fad? Or do you think they’re here to stay?

Hartenstein: Sour beers are definitely trendy, and I think they’ll stick. People are interested in them and willing to spend the money. The reasons for their high price are time and real estate. Sour beers have to age in barrels for six to 12 months. That’s a long time and those barrels take up a lot of space, especially in this crazy Silicon Valley market.

And brewers are getting really good at making them, too! That’s almost a sign that a brewer has mastered all the other beers, when they’re making a good sour. It’s usually the last they’ll try.

The Six Fifty: If sours are becoming a staple, what’s the next big trend in beer? New England IPAs?

Hartenstein: Everyone’s making them, but it’s still a question whether New England IPAs are just a fad or here to stay. I think they’ll fade away. In general, I think their popularity is more about people being tired of that super hoppy West Coast IPA. I’m thinking that by springtime, lagers and goses will be most popular.

Goses originally come from a specific region in Germany where they had a saltwater river. So you get a salty, tart flavor, kind of similar to a sour. Sierra Nevada came out with a Gose called Otra Vez that’s winning all kinds of awards and is killing it on the market.

Lagers everyone’s had, but before your only choices were Coors, Miller, or Bud. Now with more people turning away from beers with high ABV (alcohol content), you’re starting to see more and more craft lagers out there.

But don’t get me wrong, IPAs are still king.

The Six Fifty: What’s a brewery out there on the Peninsula that’s killing it?

Hartenstein: Well, I’d check out what Alpha Acid is doing. Fieldwork, they’re out of Berkeley but they’re opening up a taproom in San Mateo soon. Those guys are killing it.

Also, full disclosure, these guys are close friends of mine, but Golden State Brewery in Santa Clara is probably the most popular on the Peninsula in terms of production. They make some really good beers in non-traditional ways. They make a really good honey ale (who else is making honey ales?) and their coffee stout is probably the best I’ve ever had. That’s one of two beers we always have on tap here.

[Pro tip: If you bring a receipt from Golden State, you get a dollar off your tab at Taplands. And vice versa.]

The Six Fifty: SF Beer Week is coming up and there’s a bunch of events on the Peninsula. Which ones are you most excited about?

Hartenstein: In general, Beer Week is all about highlighting local beer. I think there’s some breweries from Portland coming down, I’d skip those.

Here’s a list of Matt’s recommendations with some of his thoughts on each.

  • Sunnyvale Beer Walk: In my backyard — that’ll be awesome. // Saturday, Feb 11th. 2:00–6:00pm. Downtown Sunnyvale. $30. More info here.
  • Sour Sunday with Almanac Beer Co: Here’s a whole day of sours! // Sunday, Feb 12th. 3:00–8:00pm. Ale Aresenal, 971 Laurel St, San Carlos. More info here.
  • Alvarado Street Tap Takeover: Everyone’s really excited about what Alvarado Street’s doing. They’re from Monterey — that should be a good one. // Monday, Feb 13th. 5:30–11:00pm. Gourmet Haus Straudt, 1615 Broadway, Redwood City. More info here.
  • Blends and Cocktails: This one we’re really excited about at Taplands. We’re always experimenting with blending drinks. We’ll have beermoosas, micheladas, beer cocktails, and more! // Wednesday, Feb 15th. 3:00–10:00pm. Taplands, 1171 Homestead Rd #110, Santa Clara. More info here.
  • Meet the Brewers at Hermitage: This was my favorite event last year. Especially for homebrewers, these can be very educational. // Saturday, Feb 18th. 1:00–5:00pm. Hermitage Brewing Company, 1627 South 7th Street, San Jose. $5-$45. More info here.

TheSixFifty: When you’re not drinking beer, what are you drinking?

Hartenstein: Water. I’m a beer geek. There’s so much variety, I never get bored with beer. (pause) Fine, I’ll have a negroni.

TheSixFifty: (laughs) Thanks for your time, Matt.

// Taplands Bottle Shop and Neighborhood Brewery // 1171 Homestead Road, Santa Clara, CA // http://www.taplands.com //

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Nick Bastone

Editor of Is America Great?, Some things I learned at Square, and Cool Young Kids

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