Santa Clara‘s bar scene reflects the demands of students at the nearby private university. Mostly, the just-up-to-code dives cater to an ample number of partiers who trade their disposable income for cheap, strong drinks on sticky dance floors. Ambience ain’t a necessity for those who shotgun a few in pregame.

The Mission City needs more well-lit spaces that serve brews sans the party boy culture. Stepping into this niche market on the periphery of Franklin Square, Taplands is “like a coffee shop, but with beer,” as described by co-owner Shannon McGinley. Its cozy cement-floored interior features corner couches, hop-shaped light fixtures and stools one might find at a bowling alley bar.

After moving from the East Coast, McGinley started the spot with her husband, Matt Hartenstein, and they originally wanting to peddle growlers—64 oz. beer vessels. But California’s stingy laws prevented them from doing so with anything other than their own concoctions. So they decided to become a haven for craft brews.

Above the bar, a screen cycles updates on their 25 (mostly local) offerings. They’ve got nifty choices like sour ales, pilsners, triple IPAs, farmhouse ales aged in white wine barrells, imperial oatmeal stouts, blood orange ciders—basically anything lightly alcoholic and carbonated. I’d list the brands, but it wouldn’t matter. The selections change by the day, and after a week, the majority of the board has flipped.

I should mention one stand-out: the North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. When I visited, McGinley dispensed this ravely-reviewed, coco-sweet brew through a Nitro filter. The special tap pours caramel, then swirls into a deep umber shade as the foam rises to the top, and the miniscule nitrogen bubbles create a head like frothed milk.

On that same day, Taplands had their own red Irish ale ($7 for 16 oz) that went down easy and left a lingering bittersweet note of roasted barley. They brew in the neighborhood and craft specials that rival their all-star collection. And in a realization of their original dream, you can pick up a growler of any of their homemade brews for $20.

To balance out the buzz, Taplands has a respectable, simple menu that includes a Kale Caesar salad ($10); a spicy, smoked turkey panini ($13); and a combination plate ($12) populated by gooey brie, creamy goat cheese, marbled prosciutto, peppery genoa salami, criss-cross toasted flatbread and sweet, brown mustard.

The spot already boasts a consistent clientele and works fine for both catch-up conversations and watching the game. For real adults, it’s a haven of respectability, and for students, it’s a welcome break from alcohol served in plastic.

1171 Homestead Road, Santa Clara.