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Brewery day trip: A Silicon Valley taproom trio to explore

Brewery day trip: A Silicon Valley taproom trio to explore

My Bay Area brewery tours have taken me to taprooms across the region, from the Tri-Valley’s Inc 82 and Danville Brewing to Pacifica’s Pedro Point. This month, Silicon Valley beckoned with breweries ranging from Floodcraft to Taplands and more.

Taplands, Santa Clara

Founded in by Matt Hartenstein in 2016, this taproom is also a bottle shop and occasional brewery. Hartenstein is a longtime homebrewer and self-avowed “old-time beer nerd” who wanted to have a craft beer bar, but didn’t want to give up his hobby — so he figured out a way to do both.

The focus is clearly on the taproom, with a nicely curated, rotating lineup of 25 beers plus a cask engine. Hartenstein likes to keep a diverse portfolio of styles. The idea, he tells me, is  to have brews that are “good for people who both know good beer and don’t know what they want.” Education is a big component here, and the bar’s vibe aims to welcome beer geeks like him as well as newbies eager to learn. That’s probably why in 2020, Taplands was named the best beer bar in California by a Brewers Association poll.

Founded in 2016 by homebrewer Matt Hartenstein, Santa Clara's Taplands is a taproom, bottle shop and nanobrewery. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks)
Founded in 2016 by homebrewer Matt Hartenstein, Santa Clara’s Taplands is a taproom, bottle shop and nanobrewery. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks) 

The bar, which offers indoor and outdoor seating and tasty fare such as deviled eggs, panini and charcuterie boards, has become a neighborhood destination. Hartenstein reckons 75 to 80 percent of his customers are regulars that he knows by name. As for the beer, he chuckles and says his own beers are only on “irregularly” and usually sell out fast. It’s hard to keep with demand on a 1-bbl nanobrewery setup and run the bar. But people clamor for his Johnny Mac wRye Red and Sid’s Serrano Ale, a smoked-pepper pale ale.

Details: Taplands opens at 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and noon Friday-Sunday at 1171 Homestead Road in Santa Clara; taplands.com.

Floodcraft Brewing, San Jose

Yes, there’s a Floodcraft Taproom at the Santa Clara Whole Foods, but you’ll want to head for the original brewery on The Alameda for the real deal. The brewery is a hidden gem — quite literally. You’ll find it upstairs in a building adjacent to the market.

The name stems from an incident early in the grocery chain’s history, when a historic flood in 1980 leveled much of Austin, Texas. With the help of locals, the market was rebuilt and reopened in less than a month, and the Floodcraft name honors that spirit of community. The upstairs digs include a balcony of tables with lovely views of The Alameda. The brewery is tucked in back, behind a central bar, and the place feels open and airy.

Brewmaster Guy Cameron spent eight years at Russian River Brewing, before taking the reins at Floodcraft. He brews a nice range of beers, all very well made, but I was especially taken with his Destination Nectaron, a pilsner using a distinctive New Zealand hop variety that imparts intense tropical flavors. Another lighter standout was Born to Raise Helles, a sweet, easy-drinking lager. But Cameron’s IPA game is solid, too, with Riwaka Juice, an imperial hazy IPA with pineapple, grapefruit and other tropical notes, and Textured Shapes, a triple hazy IPA with wonderfully complex aromas and flavors.

Floodcraft keeps eight to 10 house-brewed beers on at any given time, along with a dozen guest beers and ciders. Patrons are welcome to bring any food up from the market, too.

Details: Opens at noon daily next to the Whole Foods at 777 The Alameda in San Jose; www.wholefoodsmarket.com.

Barebottle Brewing, Santa Clara

Founded by three homebrewing friends — Lester Koga, Mike Seitz and Benjamin Sterling — in San Francisco in 2016, the trio opened a spacious taproom in Santa Clara in 2020. They don’t brew in Santa Clara, but you can find nearly all their beers here and enjoy them in a taproom that offers plenty of beer hall seating, as well as comfy sofas, a pool table and a bank of old-school video games and pinball machines.

Barebottle Brewing's spacious taproom in Santa Clara offers plenty of beer hall seating, as well as comfy sofas, a pool table and a bank of old-school pinball machines. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks)
Barebottle Brewing’s spacious taproom in Santa Clara offers plenty of beer hall seating, as well as comfy sofas, a pool table and a bank of old-school pinball machines. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks) 

Adding to the festive feel, Tuesday nights bring trivia quizzes, weekends offer beer slushies, and the menu includes everything from empanadas and pretzels to Barebottle wine and coffee beans.

You’ll find a variety of styles among the 20+ taps, including 13 hoppy IPAs. I really liked Muir Woods, a Hazy IPA with interesting pine and citrus notes not often found in hazies. They also offer malt-driven beers, sours, lagers and stouts, including a tasty and complex imperial chocolate truffle stout called Socola.

Details: The taproom opens at noon daily at 2520 Augustine Drive in Santa Clara Square; barebottle.com/santa-clara-taproom

Know a local brewery or brewpub that’s knocking it out of the park? Drop me a line at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com and tell me why you love them.


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