Telegraph Brewing Announces Dia de las Obscuras Rare Beer Festival

Note: The following is a press release from Telegraph Brewing Company. Tickets go on sale March 21


Santa Barbara craft brewery to host two-session sour-beer/wild-ale event on May 3

Santa Barbara, CA—Telegraph Brewing Company announced details today for their Dia de las Obscuras Rare Beer Festival, showcasing its barrel-aged and wild-fermented Obscura Line of experimental beers, to be held on Sunday, May 3, 2015, at the Telegraph tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara. The award-winning Santa Barbara brewery will celebrate in grand fashion with ten Obscura beers on tap, shining a spotlight on Telegraph’s renowned experimental brewing program.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for craft beer lovers to explore our most highly sought-after and difficult-to-find beers,” said Telegraph Brewing founder Brian Thompson. “To have ten taps dedicated to these rare beers is a testament to the flexibility and increased capacity of our new brewery space; that we have as much capacity to dedicate to the Obscura Line of beers as we do, allows us to put events like this together.” At Telegraph’s first Obscura event, Noche de las Obscuras, held as a part of Santa Barbara Beer Week 2014, the brewery poured eight different wild ales.

Dia de Las Obscuras will delight craft beer connoisseurs in two separate Sunday sessions (12 pm to 3pm, and 4pm to 7pm) hosted at Telegraph’s tasting room. Tickets and additional details about specific beers are available at

“The Latin word ‘Obscura’ means dark or shadowy, obscure, from unknown origins,” explained Trevor Scoggins, Telegraph’s sales manager. “And each of our Obscura beers displays that element of the unknown and the mysterious; that makes seeking out them out lots of fun for the drinker.”

Telegraph’s Obscura Line of experimental beers includes both award-winning favorites like Gypsy Ale and Reserve Wheat Ale, but also includes many one-off projects that will never exist again. Dia de las Obscuras attendees will have an opportunity to try beers from both sides of the project. Barrel master Paul Rey said, “We make a variety of elegant, complex beers that deserve a day of their own.”

Telegraph Brewing, an award-winning craft brewery located  on downtown Santa Barbara’s Salsipuedes Street, specializes in brewing uniquely American and Belgian-inspired beers using 100% domestic ingredients and as many local ingredients as possible. The brewery strives to capture in its beers the unique culinary and agricultural traditions of Santa Barbara and California’s Central Coast.

For more information, including descriptions of beers brewed by Telegraph, visit


Feral Me, Feral You; Feral One, Feral Two?

Feral One batches 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks.

Feral One batches 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks.

By now, Santa Barbara beer fans have likely already heard of Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks liberation of Feral One, batch 2, on Valentine’s Day. About a year after the release of Feral One, Barrelworks’ first bottled beer, this liberation is something of an Anniversary beer and party for the boys at Barrelworks.

I recently sat down with barrelmeister Jeffers Richardson and blendmaster Jim Crooks with a bottle each of batch one and two to talk about the beer, the liberation and a few other things. A few issues were raised and addressed.

First of all, there’s the name. Originally, I believed that if there was ever a sequel to Feral One, a beer that Richardson describes as “a cuvee or blend of our best efforts,” that it would be called Feral Two. But Richardson and Crooks explained that the name is sort of a play on words — and while “one” was appropriate for the first beer released from Barrelworks, it also worked to describe it as The One that is Feral. In other words, the beer serves as a representation of everything that Richardson, Crooks and Barrelworks stand for.

So call it what you want — Feral One vintage 2015, Feral Two, Feral One 2.0 — just know that the official name is Feral One, batch 2.

My next concern was the price. The cheapest tickets for the liberation are $104 plus eventbrite fees. It’s a big barrier to entry for most of us, but it’s a good value. At $15.99 per bottle, the tickets get you six bottles ($95.94) and the other eight dollars and eventbrite fees go toward the other goodies available at the liberation and the chance to be able to say you tasted it before anybody else. Like previous liberations, there will be “feral foods” and rare beer tastings that more than make up for the eight dollar cost beyond the beer. Rumor had it that there might be a keg of the first batch of Feral One, now a year old, but that was not confirmed. In any case, it’s always fascinating to see what comes out of the barrels at Barrelworks.

Specifically, this new batch of Feral One picks up right where the first left off.

Feral One batch 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks. Notice the slightly darker shade to batch 2.

Feral One batch 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks. Notice the slightly darker shade to batch 2.

Richardson and Crooks sampled upwards of 80 barrels to find the right blend, and 23 ended up making the final blend. Like batch 1, the final beer has a pleasant tartness and lemon notes that accentuate a good, somewhat sweet background. It’s hard to recall exactly what Feral One tasted like a year ago, but this is reminiscent for sure — and that’s by design.

“This truly was a hedonistic approach,” Richardson said. “We didn’t have to recreate batch 1. We could create something else, but we really like batch 1.”

Perhaps the biggest difference is the color, which Crooks hypothesized came from the presence of Sour Solace, a beer that has aged in barrels at Barrelworks now for 48 months. After all that time in barrels, the relatively pale beer picked up color from the oak and oxygen. It also seemed to add a slightly more noticeable presence of vanilla and toffee, but it was faint enough that it could have been my mind affecting my palate, as those flavors tend to express themselves more in darker beers.

With any beer inoculated with lactobacillus, Feral One batch 2 certainly has a strong acidic character to it. But Crooks and Richardson argue that simply referring to the beer as a “sour” negates so much of what the beer has to offer.

“Acidity is the first thing people jump on,” Richardson said. “But they miss out on so much more if they’re doing that. What we’re trying to do, and the word we always use to describe it is ‘layers.’ We’re trying to make a beer with layers to it.”

Those layers come through in the sweetness of the malt, the wide array of slightly floral aromas underneath a slight yeast and sulfur note in the nose — and yes — in the tartness. Unlike some beers fermented with lacto though, Feral One batch 2, like the original, isn’t lip-puckeringly sour. It’s fizzy and tart enough to be refreshing, but not uninviting.

“A lot of people have gotten into beer because of (Pliny the Elder) and beers like that and ‘oh my gosh this is what hops are,'” Crooks said. “At Firestone, we’ve never been like that. Firestone and (brewmaster Matt Brynildson) have always been about balance and what’s drinkable.”

Batch 2 is certainly drinkable, but the real treat of the tasting session was a side-by-side comparison with a one-year-old version of Feral One batch 1. Batch 2 was slightly darker, and the edges of the flavors were somewhat sharper, so to speak, but there were more similarities than differences. And while batch 2 was a truly nice beer, there was no doubt that batch 1 provided a more enjoyable experience.

With that in mind, I asked Richardson and Crooks what the best way to age or cellar these beers was, since I’ll be coming home with 12 bottles on Valentine’s Day. Their recommendation was to store the bottles at room temperature, or cooler, but to avoid refrigerating them until you wanted to drink it. The reason was that the wide array of microflora that add to the complexity and character of Feral One go dormant at temperatures below 50 degrees, but continue to interact with the beer at cellar and room temperature. Storing the beer in warm (above 75 degrees or so) areas was not recommended, and the worst that could happen to a beer left in the refrigerator is that it would preserve it and its flavors as is — not a terrible outcome at all.

We also tasted a bottled version of Reginald Brett, which is essentially Double DBA given the Barrelworks treatment, and looked at plans for a future remodel of the Barrelworks facility to transform it from its current look into something more like an old-world abbey. Both that remodel and a possible release of Reginald Brett are little more than possibilities at the moment though.

Feral Vinifera and Agrestic Release at Firestone Walker Barrelworks

Agrestic 2014 Front label

Firestone Walker is releasing two beers on Sept. 20 at Barrelworks in Buellton, and is hosting another one of its liberation parties. Pre-sale tickets for the event are available here.

I think a lot of Firestone fans are going to be excited to finally see Agrestic in bottles. Officially, the liberation is for Agrestic, as it is the more voluminous of the two beers created and the one that the team at Barrelworks can guarantee for all of the attendees. I had an opportunity to taste Agrestic 2014 shortly before it went into bottles (and I believe it has been on tap at Barrelworks as well), and it was right in line with previous iterations of the beer. It will be fun to see how bottle conditioning impacts this delightfully sour ale.

Feral Vinifera_Label_FWBC_375ml

The other beer being released is Feral Vinifera. More details can be found by following the earlier link, but the basic details are that it’s something between a sour beer and a beer/wine hybrid. I haven’t tasted this one yet, but I’ve had sips of some of the components a good ways back and I imagine it’s going to be pretty fantastic.

We Make Beer

On a personal note, I’m very excited to announce that I will be at Barrelworks signing copies of my book, We Make Beer. Technically, this is several days before the book is even released, so it’s something of a sneak preview. Copies of the book will be available for sale on site. However, if you’d like to buy more for a gift or if you can’t make it to the Agrestic liberation, you can always pre-order copies from Amazon here.

It’s been too long — New beer in Santa Barbara

Things have been hectic as the publication and distribution of We Make Beer gets closer and closer. I’ve got some exciting news coming on that front soon, but for now let’s focus on Santa Barbara.

A couple glasses of Pacific Wild Time with a taster of Pacific Standard Time for comparison.

A couple glasses of Pacific Wild Time with a taster of Pacific Standard Time for comparison.

The first exciting new beer in town is Pacific Wild Time from Telegraph Brewing Company. The following is a description sent out on the brewery’s email account:

“To bring you up to speed: Last fall, Curtis and Telegraph brewers met to forge a recipe showcasing the rich and unique flavors of his unique malt. The genuinely locally sourced Pacific Standard Time was born of Santa Ynez grain which Ca Malting Co. malted only blocks from the brewery on Gutierrez Street in Santa Barbara. A straight forward Belgian-style pale ale with aromas of french bread and graham cracker compliment a rich and genuine amber malt character. We went a step further and will be showing off the classically Telegraph-esque result of this journey on the 21st of this month.

With Curtis’s blessing, we have decided to celebrate the fruits of our collective labor by tapping the wine barrel aged iteration of Pacific Standard Time, fermented with wild yeast. Paul’s creation is a floral new generation of this beer that speaks to the traditions of beers brewed in the farmhouse. Please join us if you find yourself in town next week. We will be sharing the beer in the brewery for the coming month until it runs dry. I’ve been afforded an opportunity to sip and am excited to share it with you.”

I went down on Sunday to try it out, and was thoroughly impressed. There are notes of peaches and oranges and a pleasant tartness. It’s a much rounder and more robust beer than another offering available in the tap room (in bottles, for purchase) — Reserve Wheat.

The Reserve Wheat berlinner weisse is a favorite of Telegraph fans, and neither it nor the Pacific Wild Time ale will last long.

I also paid a visit to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company on Sunday, to taste the McKinley Peak Milk Stout served on nitro. This is the kind of beer that begs to be paired with something — anything. It would be good with a meal, with ice cream or as a dessert its self. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy it on its own as well. It’s rich, chocolatey and super creamy served on nitro. I love the way the lactose plays with the roasted malts to bring out that chocolate note. It’s a really nice job from brewmaster A.J. Stoll.

Fest Review: Deep Fest

I’ll admit, I was skeptical about the Surf N’ Suds Deep Fest Beer Festival at Carpinteria’s Linden Park this Saturday. To me, the second annual festival featuring local breweries (and some brands from out of state as well), surfboard shapers and local vendors had all the makings of a bro-fest with little more than flagship brands and standard offerings from everybody in attendance.

Now I have to really admit, I was wrong.

The one thing that wasn’t surprising was the pleasantness of the venue itself. Linden Park could host a manure festival and as long as there was a little bit of sun and that cool Carpinteria ocean breeze it would probably be a good time. There was ample space for the breweries and 1,000-or-so guests to amble about without having to immediately jump in line for the next tasting. As for the lines themselves, they were short enough that you could chat with a brewer or brewery rep as much as you liked — which is always a bonus for he geekiest beer geeks among us.

As for the beer itself, there were a few highlights that caught my eye:

Anderson Valley’s The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose was the first beer I tried upon entering the festival, and it was spot on. There was a sharp tartness that had a hint of lemon to it and was pleasantly effervescent on the palate.

Amazingly, that wasn’t the only Gose on hand at Deep Fest. The Libertine Pub from Morro Bay was on site with its What Gose Around, a collaboration with New Belgium Brewing Company. The small Morro Bay brewpub took a keg of sea water from Morro Bay out to Colorado to brew this collaboration with America’s second largest craft brewery, and the end result was a pleasant, tart Gose that was less sour than the Holy Gose, but still tart enough to have a nice refreshing quality.

Libertine also brought its Summer Breeze, and American Wild Ale made with Apricots and Raspberry. The fruit and funk were well balanced with one another. In another setting, I’d have liked to sit down with a tulip or two of this beer until my cheeks were permanently puckered from too much sour ale.

I was also intrigued by an Imperial Stout from J.T. Schmidt’s, which was my first introduction to the brewery. It wasn’t terribly boozy tasting or loaded with raisiny melanoidins, nor was it smacking of vanilla and oak from aging in a bourbon barrel. Instead, it was a straight-up, heavy stout that smacked of roasted barley. It was the kind of brew I’d like to drink on nitro at the end of a cold night.

There were plenty of other new, or new-to-the-area breweries on hand as well. Carpinteria brewery Brewlab comes to mind, as its Green Tea IPA blended a variety of lovely flavors in with a nice floral IPA, and its Rye Saison was delightful under the warm Carpinteria sunshine. New Ventura brewery Poseidon Brewing Company was also pouring beer, with former Figueroa Mountain brewer, Reno King, serving the beer from his new brewery. I tasted the Rye Pale Ale, which had a pronounced bitterness but felt firmly entrenched in your hop-head’s ideal range.

And of course, one of my favorites, Institution Ale Company was on hand serving its Maple Brown Ale, Restraint, and a Progress Pale Ale, Citra. The Camarillo-based brewery is steadily expanding and steadily improving, which is remarkable only because it started at such a high level. The homebrewers-turned-pros at Institution are quietly making some of the best beer in Southern California, and any chance to taste some of their creations is worth it.

I had my doubts about Deep Fest, but I shouldn’t have.

First Taste: Feral One and Lil Opal


Sour beer fans by now have already heard about Firestone Walker’s upcoming release of Feral One. Detailed information from the brewery about that beer can be found in the preceding link, but the beer is a Cuvée Blend that comes off like a classic Gueuze.

I was asked if I’d like to come in and have a taste of the beer before it’s released on March 8. Well, that’s an easy question to answer.

Firestone’s blendmaster, Jim Crooks, was on hand to pour us some samples and discuss the beer. Barrelworks’ barrelmeister and Jim’s partner in these projects, Jeffers Richardson, joined us via telephone from Arizona where he was doing some promotional work. We got the better end of the deal, as we actually had some beer to taste.

Firestone Walker master blender Jim Crooks pours a sample of Feral One

Firestone Walker master blender Jim Crooks pours a sample of Feral One

The beer opens from its cork and cage with a loud pop, but there isn’t a fizzy overflow. That’s not surprising, as Jeffers and Jim have become very good at controlling and monitoring the wildness of their brews.

The aroma is full of grapefruit zest and has a slight hint of raspberry. My guess is the raspberry is in part a result of the blending of SLOAmbic, a fruited Lambic made with olallieberries. But what was most remarkable was that citrus aroma, as Jim explained it’s a very difficult scent to achieve in an aged sour beer. The actual cause of the aroma is uncertain, but Jeffers and Jim were able to speculate.

“One of the things how our beer differs from other sour producers is that we use a lot of American Oak,” Jim said. “It could possibly be that American Oak might start out with these higher harsh tannic compounds. Then when the beer oxidizes and intermingles with the flavors of the oak, that might be where this lemony zest or grapefruit zest is coming from.”

And of course, since we’re all super beer nerds, Jeffers went even deeper into the aroma.

“Something else I picked out the last time I tasted it was this undertone,” Jeffers said. “It was a vanilla oak undertone, but I picked up a slight lavender that was really interesting. That could be oak or oxidation as well. That’s the beauty of these beers – they’re alive.”


The first sip definitely provided a bit of a prickly sour experience that was enhanced by the sharp carbonation and tannins from the oak. The sourness lingered and grew slightly in intensity after the swallow. There was also a hint of vanilla after the sourness faded away.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable beer. The balance of the tartness with the slight hints of fruit and oak were masterfully done. An interesting note though was that, according to Jim, the blend was made more sour at the suggestion of Firestone’s brewmaster Matt Brynildson.

It seems like a good idea.

Lil’ Opal

Perhaps the real treat of the tasting session was a little something extra Jim brought out for comparison. Feral One is Barrelworks’ first bottled beer, and Lil’ Opal is its second. I’ve edited the rest of this post at the request of Barrelworks, as the Lil’ Opal I tasted is not quite ready, and it wasn’t fair to the beer or brewers to give it a review – even if it was a positive one.

Suffice to say it’s still a work in progress that shows a ton of progress and was quite good. The picture below is Lil’ Opal in the glass.


General Updates on Santa Barbara Beer Scene

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I blame life. Without further ado, here are some notes on recent developments in the Santa Barbara Beer Scene.


Our first trip through the American Riviera takes us to Santa Barbara Brewing Company, where brewmaster Kevin Pratt has unveiled a redesigned version of one of the brewery’s signature beers – Pacific Pale Ale.

I must admit that this news gave me mixed emotions, as Pacific Pale was one of my favorite beers there already. The good news is that the revision is even more hop-forward with a brilliant aroma. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a solid beer. For a real beer geek, this is a great example to see how a brewer can tinker with a beer. Get a taste now, because it will be changed (and knowing Kevin, improved), and you will be able to track the differences.

This is also the time to remind you that Brewco is still serving Old Wrecollection and The Naughty List.  Don’t waste your time scouring eBay for ridiculous imperial stouts when you’ve got a very good one in your own back yard. These are great beers with which to look at pictures of your friends across the country suffering through winter.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 8.59.16 PM

Our next stop takes us to Pure Order Brewing Company on Quarantina St. I stopped by to visit after receiving this text message (see below) from Kevin (see above), who was helping the Burge (James and David) cousins and owners of Pure Order to get the brewery up to speed (it’s good to have friends like Kevin in this town, apparently).

It’s just a water boil in the kettle, but it’s a good sign that they are ready to brew some beer. The buzz about them around town is already starting to heat up – so I guess it’s about time, boys.

IMG_0605 IMG_0580

Next up, we go around the corner to Telegraph Brewing Company on Salsipuedes St. Their new tasting room has been up and running for a good while now, and the results are already noticeable. The biggest boon has been more beer – as the brewers no longer have to shut down brewing operations to host tasters. This means plenty of California Ale and seasonals on tap, but it also means more frequent unique beers. That was the case with Demolicíon! – A very special 10-gallon batch of a dark sour ale (see picture above – the dark beer… obviously).

These kind of beers are exactly what sets Telegraph apart from the other breweries in the area, and many breweries in the country for that matter. The hybridization of American- and Belgian-style beers gives Santa Barbara’s first production brewery a special spot in the SB community that fits very well with the generally warm weather and wine-tasting crowd. Do yourself a favor, skip the wine and just go straight to Telegraph.

fig moutnain

Let’s head down to the Funk Zone, where Figueroa Mountain‘s Yanonali St. Location is constantly churning out new product. I wish I could come in and bring up a specific beer to try, but I can’t. There’s so many new and interesting beers coming out that it’s hard to single out one.

OK, I lied. Try the Blackbread Porter. It’s a Rye Porter, and I love the way the spicy rye plays with the sweeter malts involved. Balance doesn’t always have to come within the interplay of sweet malt and hops, and that’s something the guys at Fig truly understand. The other good news here is that it’s more than just brewmaster AJ Stoll’s stuff here. So while you can still taste beer brewed by one of the best brewers in town, you can also taste products designed and executed by his staff. And if you get a chance to hear The Caverns play on a Friday night, even better.

Valley Brewers

I had the opportunity to attend a Valley Brewers Homebrew Club meeting earlier this month. In addition to some really tasty beers, we discussed the need for some political action, as home brewers are being squeezed out of local beer festivals in California. There’s going to be more on that in my February column for the News Press – so keep an eye out for that, please.


Lastly, it’s time for a bit of shameless self-promotion (Wait, I thought that’s what this entire blog was – oh well).

We Make Beer, the book I’ve written for St. Martin’s Press has a publication date. September 23, 2014. Mark your calendars and make sure those reading glasses are clean. It’s a 200-page journey through the American Beer scene – with emphasis on craft brewers (My mom always told me if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all – so the extent of my discussions on big brewers is essentially “they make real consistent beer.” I didn’t say what they consistently taste like).

Cheers! And here’s to more blog posts in 2014