Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Really only one necessary beer-related item was placed on my personal agenda for last week's family vacation to Santa Barbara, only one thing that I had to do. Kid wants to stay at the beach? Sorry, daddy's busy. Someone needs a ride somewhere? Here, stand in this spot for the next 90 minutes - be right back. Daddy had to go TELEGRAPH BREWING's weekly open house at their decidedly unassuming Santa Barbara brewery, which only happens on Friday afternoons and Saturdays. 

Back when I used to write a beer blog called Hedonist Beer Jive, I told all y'all about my 2008 visit to said open house, and raved appropriately and affectionately about a brewer who're one of our country's best and most inventive. They were completely unsung then, but much better-known now. Funny enough, not only has Telegraph's web site not evolved in the four intervening years, neither thankfully has their open house tastings, which are super low-key, friendly and held in cramped quarters as brewery personnel like head brewer Brian Thompson mill about, break bread and slap backs with visiting fellow travelers.

I kinda buzzed in and floated out quickly, making sure to try the two Telegraph beers that were being poured that I'd yet to try - and one of them is draft-only and not bottled. Even got to hobnob with Mr. Thompson a little bit, whom I've interviewed on both blogs before, and sweet-talked my way into a bottle of OBSCURA CACAO, a beer which seems to have wound up in hands all over the USA except in the most important ones - mine. A review of said beer will be coming presently - I mean, as soon as I drink it. So here's what we tried on site at Telegraph two Fridays ago:

"CERVEZA DE FIESTA PILSNER" - This beer was brewed as a local tribute to the annual summer "Fiesta" celebration in Santa Barbara, and as a fella who spent 4 somewhat blurry years in college down here, lemme tell ya, this town loves to party. So it naturally deserves a super-fresh and clean-tasting classic craft pilsner to rage with, instead of with the swill I was drinking here in the 1980s (Meister Brau, Brew 102, Stroh's, MGD). This one has faint citrus and tangy notes, and is crisp while remaining very juicy. It's dawning on me that we actually might be evolving into a new age of lagers, as the ale-centric craft geniuses turn their attention to them and/or rediscover the glories of the past. Either that or I'm just waking up to the pleasures derived from the great ones - either way, this one scores an 8/10.

"ABBEY ALE" - I should have mentioned that the previous beer can actually be found in bottles, if you look hard enough. Some of 'em made it up here to City Beer. This one isn't/hasn't (yet?). It's a 6.5% abv Telegraph version of the classic Trappist ales. Sweet, with a thin body - and not as rich and lush as I'd expect from a Westmalle/Rochefort tribute, yet delicious nonetheless. Very good grainy taste up front and then a flavorful yeasty aftertaste. Sweetness is balanced well. If it could be said, then I'll say it: this is what a "California" Belgian ale might taste like, if one could conjure such a thing. Also going with an enthusiastic 8/10.

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