I knew that I’d never forgive myself this year if, during the family vacation to Santa Barbara (concluded this past Sunday), I didn’t make a Herculean effort to get over to TELEGRAPH BREWING to shake some hands and slap some backs. See, as you might remember (posts here, here and here – interview with head brewer Brian Thompson here), I feel totally heels-over for the beer of this tiny brewer last year. I try a lot of different beers & new brewers completely and totally blind, as I’m sure you do, and only sometimes do they impress me for their dedication and craft & flat-out great taste as the three I’ve had from TELEGRAPH did. Well add two more to the list, and count me as their “biggest fan” (though, wearing a t-shirt from the brewery like a true dork in SB the next day, I found I wasn’t alone in my rabid fandom).
TELEGRAPH is not a brewery you just pop into for some chicken wings, nachos & a pint. Located in a warehouse section of town that’s fast becoming winery central, they only throw open the taps for the hoi polloi twice a week - once on Friday and again on Saturday. Show up between 4-6pm on a Friday, as I did, and you’ll be treated with hospitality and luv from the fine fellas behind the bar, who have to travel directly to the tanks to grab you a glass of the elixirs. I even got to talking with Thompson, the great man himself. “Totally down to earth”, as they say – just the sort of person who gives beer people a good name. Anyway, the deal is, the brewery offers up 10-oz. glasses, pints, and then a tasting sampler that I just had to go for – because it contains the opportunity to pull the lever on the one you liked best for a bonus 10-oz. glass after you’re done with the tastes. All for 5 bucks. Now we’re talking.
Here’s what I learned: these guys can’t make a bad beer, not even close. I first tried their WHITE ALE, a Belgian wit that was absolutely bursting with fruit & a really refreshing combination of hops and grains. Thompson says they can barely keep the thing in stock, and (unfortunately) that there are as yet no plans to bottle it. This one was so great – and armed with the privileged information that I could only get it at the source – I had it again. 9/10. I also enjoyed the GOLDEN WHEAT ALE and the CALIFORNIA ALE, which we’ve written about before here, and which taste even better from the tap. I naturally picked up a couple of bottles to go. Seriously, I’m going to bump up the 8.5’s I gave to both of these beers to 9’s now. How about that? If forced to choose one at gunpoint, I’d probably make the gunman pour a pint of the California Ale down my throat – but really folks, how can ya lose. The final selection was a new one called STOCK PORTER, a fairly thin-bodied yet absolutely fantastic porter, filled with barrel-aged oak taste and a distinct hint of vanilla. I had to order a 10-oz glass of this one as well, with a big tear in my eye because there were no bottles to grab by the armful & use to help convert Northern California into Telegraph Brewing freaks. 8/10 here. W-o-w.
I gleaned that there are other beers in the hopper for later, and hopefully some distribution opportunities that might present themselves in 2008-09, but basically this is a small-time, local west coast craft brewer in no big hurry to do much of anything except crank out artisanal beer for those who’re interested. I implore you, make sure you’re one of them – and please help keep them in business so that I may continue drinking their ales.