Posted in Breweries, Taprooms

From Fantasyland to … Taplands

Yes! You read that right… and it probably left you wondering.

Taplands’ taproom

So, I sat down with Matt Hartenstein, owner of Taplands in Santa Clara, CA. Like most of the guys and gals in the brewing industry, Matt, 52, started off as a home brewer. He started home brewing in 1990 and, instead of opening a brewery, had dreams of opening a place for the community to enjoy good beer. At that point, Matt and his then-girlfriend-now-wife were young and poor, as he puts it. It was just a fantasy… for the time being.

After spending years in the medical field selling assisted living care to older folks and their families, he realized he wanted to move away from that and not grow old doing it. About 4 to 5 years ago, Matt and his wife (with the help of some family members) had put enough money away to start working on their taproom project.

“I always joke that this is my mid-life crisis,” said Matt.

Jillian Stone (left), Matt Hartenstein (center), Isabel Tiscareno (right)

In the 1990s, Matt and his wife moved to the Silicon Valley and had two kids. They realized very quickly that they were having a hard time finding places where they could enjoy good beer and bring their kids along. So they built just that. He recalled saying  “We should just build the place we want to hang out.” Matt and his wife Shannon went to work and created what they envisioned as a pre-prohibition public house where people could gather and discover beer regardless of them being beer geeks or beer novices.

Mural by Jim Fonseca, local San Jose artist

“Our goal is the community,” said Matt. He said he is not putting much emphasis on the brewing part of his business, although he is looking into expanding his brewing capacity. “We want to create the space where people want to drink beer.” Finding the first place was no small feat. Being mostly a retail facility (and not brewing), they had trouble finding a place that was willing to wait for them to get all the permits required. After a year of searching, they found this place in Santa Clara in the Old Quad District about 3 years ago. (Happy Anniversary, you guys!)

Taplands is home to 24 carbonated taps and one cask (mostly dedicated to Freewheel Brewing at the moment for lack of other cask brewers in the area). With that, they go through about 50 kegs a week. They currently produce about 1.5 barrels of their own beer every week and use Golden State’s facility for the rest. Matt said they have a dedicated fermenter at Golden State and produce about eight barrels per batch there, which they sell over the course of about three months.

Taplands’ Bothers From Other Mothers Imperial Stout

I was there for a little over an hour and let me tell you. There are a few first-timers but also a whole lot of regulars/community members. It’s a local spot for the locals… and anyone who wants to enjoy a good brew and maybe learn some about beer along the way.  Matt said they wanted to create a landscape of beers, thus “Taplands.” Shannon got the idea from Disney’s map (FatansyLand, TomorrowLand, WesternLand, AdventureLand, etc…) Get it?

Matt and Shannon are hoping to expand to a second location soon and are looking for a place that is about double their current space. They also hope to have about 5 to 7 barrels to be able to produce enough beer for both facilities. Jim, it may be about time to start rethinking that whole day job thing! Jim Noe is their head brewer and is a mechanical engineer by day so to speak. “My strength is what it’s going to be like,” Matt said talking about beer recipes. “Jim’s strength is actually getting the stuff done.”

Taplands’ taproom

But wait! The family is not complete yet. We’ve got Matt, Shannon and Jim. But Taplands also has three bar tenders, Jillian Stone, Dale Swanson (hopefully featured in a future post for his killer beer Instagram), Chris Sierras, and a bar manager, Isabel Tiscareno aka Izzy, as well as the cooks. Great bunch!

I wish I could tell you about all the great beer they brew but most of it was poured at the Bacon and Beer Classic last weekend and they ran out. I did, however, have a pour of their Thickly Settled IPA at the Classic as well as Brothers From Other Mothers, a 12% ABV barrel-aged imperial stout, at the taproom. Tasty! I’ll have to go back and try some more of their awesome brews like their Red Johnny Mac Wry Red, their Sid’s Serrano APA with Serrano peppers and the Forty Whacks NEIPA. Looking forward to it! Nice crowd, nice place!

A couple more photos for the road: