Recap of Telegraph’s Dia de Los Obscuras

Note: This column originally appeared in the May 7 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press

It can be hard to find the right words to describe a beer. After a while, words like floral, piney, caramel, chocolate and toffee all start to sound the same.

That’s part of the reason why I avoid writing reviews of beer. Who is to say that my palate is better than yours, or that my perception of a beer’s flavors should influence your appreciation?

But in the effort to avoid using contrived adjective after contrived adjective, my descriptions of certain beers can tend to be overly broad. For example, I’m fond of describing Telegraph Brewing’s beers as “unique.”

Unfortunately, I have no intention of abandoning this word when it comes to the projects that Telegraph and brewer Paul Rey are churning out.

Rey and Telegraph’s creativity were on full display May 3 for the Salsipuedes Street brewery’s second Dia de las Obscuras sour beer festival. With 10 beers on tap (only eight of which were actually sour, although all 10 involved wild yeasts) and a crowd of a few hundred people milling about, it was an intimate and altogether pleasant festival.

“I’m real happy with the way things turned out,” Rey said. “The main improvement from last year was having separate stations and spreading people out. That way everyone can just relax and not scramble to try and get a beer.”

I marveled at beers like the Indigenous Yeast Project, which was fermented with yeast captured and isolated by Rey underneath fruit trees from some property in San Roque.

“I’ve done it several times and captured wild yeast that’s produced DMS (dimethyl sulfide, a chemical compound that is undesirable in beer and tastes like old vegetables) or some pretty bad sulfur characters — just some harsh off-flavors,” Rey said. “This is the first one I’ve isolated that was really clean. I propped it up from a tiny jar to a growler with an airlock to eventually up to a 5-gallon carboy. A couple gallons of that went into this batch, which was about 12 to 13 gallons total.”

The beer itself was slightly reminiscent of Earl Grey tea.

I loved the tart and semi-sweet Framboise Palo Santo that was made with Telegraph’s house sour culture and raspberries. It was pink, sweet and fizzy enough that I could have enjoyed a whole pint of it yet complex enough that my party and I were content to sip on the small sample we were poured.

Then there was Johnny Parker. The sour ale is named after a friend of Rey’s and aged in a small wine barrel for about 18 months — about as long as Telegraph has been in its current location. In fact, the Johnny Parker beer was the first barrel added to Telegraph’s now sizeable barrel collection.

Apples were added, and there is a slight hint of apple cider to the beer. The plums and the peaches are less obvious, although the layers of intrigue are certainly added.

“It’s there for complexity, not to be an apple beer or a cherry beer,” Rey said. “It’s there for the complexity. I started with apples, then added some cherries — flavor giant is the variety… then some plums when I plummed the Gypsy Ale and some peaches. It wasn’t the same peaches that went into (Obscura) Peche, but it was the same peach tree.”

Johnny Parker was a favorite of mine, along with Demolicion Dos — a sour dark strong ale aged with a variety of fruit that included blackberries. I noticed that Johnny Parker was also a favorite of many of the area brewers that were in attendance.

I spotted brewers from the brewLAB in Carpinteria, Island Brewing Co., The Brewhouse, the Libertine Pub from Morro Bay and even local home brewer-turned-pro Josh Ellis who will be opening his own brewery in Goleta in the very near future.

I asked Rey what brought them all out to the event.

“Because they’re really into beer,” he said.

Perhaps. But I think they’re probably also really into Telegraph’s unique offerings.

Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and the author of “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” (St. Martin’s Press). His column appears the first Thursday of the month. Follow him on Twitter @Sean_M_Lewis.



Santa Barbara Beer Week is Coming Soon

Santa Barbara Craft Beer Week is Here

July 7-13

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — For the first time ever, the Santa Barbara beer community has rallied together to celebrate good beer in the American Riviera. For the week of July 7-13, local breweries, bars and restaurants are hosting events and offering specials that honor locally crafted brews and the local community.

These events include, but are certainly not limited to, rare releases, tasting sessions with local brewmasters, live music and lots of food and beer. Santa Barbara Beer Week already has events lined up from Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Telegraph Brewing Company, Santa Barbara Brewing Company, Island Brewing Company, Pure Order Brewing Company, The Brewhouse, Armada Wine and Beer Merchant, Eureka! Burger and many more, with new events still being added every day.

For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter: @SBBeerWeek with the hashtags #SBBeer and #SBBeerWeek. If you’d like to add an event or if you have any questions, please email



Beer and Ice Cream at Telegraph

I missed this event as I was out of town for my brother’s Bachelor Party (a brewery crawl through San Diego), but heard great things from my friends who went to Telegraph’s recent beer and ice cream pairing. Telegraph is consistently great at challenging beer drinkers to think about beer in new ways, and encouraging customers to make beer floats is yet another example of that.

Rumor has it this will be a monthly event at Telegraph’s tasting room – if so, I’m looking forward to the next one.

A listing of ice cream and beer pairings at Telegraph Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Ross Webber.

A listing of ice cream and beer pairings at Telegraph Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Ross Webber.

Telegraph Brewing Expands Distribution to Washington State


As Santa Barbara’s beer scene continues to grow locally, so too does it expand nationally. The following is a press release from Telegraph Brewing Company, which is moving into new markets and representing Santa Barbara with its bevvy of inspired Belgian-Style Ales. I guess the move to the new production facility and taproom is already starting to pay off.


Santa Barbara-based craft brewery teams up with Seattle’s Orcas Distributing in first foray into the Pacific Northwest

Santa Barbara, CA · January 6, 2014 – Telegraph Brewing Company announced today that their award winning beers are now available in Washington State through Seattle-based Orcas Distributing Ltd. “The Pacific Northwest is one of the most vibrant craft beer markets in the country,” said founder and CEO Brian Thompson, “this move marks a major milestone for our company.”

Telegraph is shipping draft and bottled beers to the Evergreen State, including allocations of limited-release and seasonal beers to complement their core, year-round beers like California Ale and White Ale. “With every new market we add, we want to ensure that we are able to send our rare, sought-after beers along with our regular line up,” said Telegraph sales manager Trevor Scoggins. Telegraph’s beers are available in both half-barrel (15.5-gallon) and sixth-barrel (5.2-gallon) kegs, and in 750-ml cork-and-cage bottles.

Orcas Distributing vice president of marketing, Toshi Kojima, said, “We are thrilled to partner with Telegraph and are very excited to bring their unique beers to craft beer consumers in Seattle and throughout  Washington State.

Launch celebrations are planned in the coming week, including an event at Brouwer’s Café in Seattle on January 9, where there will be seven Telegraph beers on tap, including two limited-release sour ales, and events at The Yard in Seattle, and Collective on Tap in Woodinville, WA, on January 10. Additional events are planned January 9 at Tacoma’s Parkway Tavern and The Copper Hog in Bellingham, WA. “There is such a long and storied history of craft beer in the Seattle area, and all of Washington really,” Thompson explained. “We’re honored to be writing our own small chapter of that history.

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

Telegraph Brewing Expands Distribution to Arizona

From a press release sent today:
The award-winning, Santa Barbara-based craft brewery teams up with Hensley Beverage Company to serve the Grand Canyon State

Santa Barbara, CA · November 19, 2013 – Telegraph Brewing Company announced today that their award winning beers are now available in Arizona through Hensley Beverage Company. “Arizona is where I grew up,” said founder and CEO Brian Thompson, “Seeing our bottles on the shelves here means a lot to me, and we are very excited by this expansion.”

Telegraph is shipping both draft and bottled beers to the Grand Canyon State, including allocations of limited-release and seasonal beers in addition to their core, year-round beers like California Ale and White Ale. “All of our limited-release beers are, really and truly, limited in quantity, but we don’t want to ignore the demand in Arizona for beers like our Reserve Wheat Ale, a sour Berlin-style wheat beer, and Rhinoceros, a rye-based barleywine-style ale,” said Telegraph sales manager Trevor Scoggins. “We don’t want to be one of those breweries that hoards all the hard-to-get beers for ourselves!” he added.

Hensley Beverage Company’s director of craft brands, Scott Kirkpatrick, said, “We couldn’t be happier to have added Telegraph to our craft portfolio. Telegraph makes great craft beers like their California Ale and White Ale that anyone can enjoy. They complement those with an amazing line of limited and special-release beers. We are going to have a lot of fun with this addition!” Telegraph’s beers are available in both half-barrel (15.5-gallon) and sixth-barrel (5.2-gallon) kegs, and in 750-ml cork-and-cage bottles.

With several roll-out celebrations planned in the coming week, and events already in the works for next February’s Arizona Beer Week, Telegraph is working hard to become a part of the exploding Arizona craft-beer scene. “Beer drinkers in Arizona have fantastic access to locally brewed beers and to a plethora of craft beers from all over the country,” Thompson explained. “We want to be an integral participant in this vibrant market.”

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 reflect 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

# # #

Telegraph Brewing Wins Medal at the Great American Beer Festival® – Press Release

Just received this press release from Telegraph Brewing Company. More info forthcoming in my story for the Santa Barbara News Press. Congrats to them as well as the other local winners!

Telegraph Brewing Wins Medal at the Great American Beer Festival®

Craft brewery recognized at GABF® for the third year in a row

Santa Barbara, CA · October 21, 2013 – This past weekend, Telegraph Brewing Company won a bronze medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival (GABF), marking the third year in a row in which the brewery has won awards at the world’s largest beer competition.  Winners in the competition’s 84 different beer-style categories were announced October 12 at the 27th annual Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.

Telegraph was awarded a bronze medal in the Belgian- and French-Style Ale category for its flagship California Ale, a Belgian-Style Pale Ale characterized by its deep amber color and complex, earthy flavors and aromas. Telegraph brews California Ale specifically to pair well with Santa Barbara’s fresh, farmer’s market cuisine. The beer previously won a gold medal in the same category two years ago at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

“Elated, is how we feel,” said Brian Thompson, founder of Telegraph. “This is the third year in a row that we’ve won medals at the GABF, we think that speaks volumes about the hard work we do and our focus on quality.” Telegraph Head Brewer Scott Baer added, “Being in Denver to accept this medal on behalf of our entire staff here in Santa Barbara means a lot to me; it is a real honor.”

Telegraph Brewing, a 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 reflect in its beers the unique culinary and agricultural traditions of Santa Barbara and California’s Central Coast. Telegraph sold its first beer in 2006.

The 2013 Great American Beer Festival winners were selected by an international panel of 201 expert judges from a record number of 4,809 entries received from 732 U.S. breweries. “The Great American Beer Festival brings together the most stellar brewers from around the country,” said Chris Swersey, competition director. “Taking home a medal—any medal—at this premier beer competition is truly a symbol of brewing excellence.”

For more Great American Beer Festival competition information, including the 2013 winners list and photos, visit

Update on New Space for Telegraph + Octoberfest


An email from Telegraph Brewing Company confirmed that Santa Barbara’s only (for the moment) packaging brewery is close to opening its doors at its new location on Salsipuedes Street (right next to the old location). Per the email:


We’re still hoping just a matter of a week or so, but to some extent it depends on getting final approval from the city. My contractor still has several things that need to get done around the place.”

That’s good news – but there’s more. Telegraph will also be hosting an Octoberfest event on Friday, October 4, in front of the new brewery. The Four Seasons Food Truck will be outside from 5-9 p.m.

I will keep y’all posted with more information about Telegraph’s opening as soon as it’s available.


Rumors? Rumors! …oh and new beer

I’ve had the fortunate displeasure of being busy with work lately, which has distracted me from the free enterprise of blogging. Without further ado, I’d like to spread some news that I’ve heard. I’d like to stress that these are only rumors and are subject to change.


First up, I tasted a couple of new beers at Santa Barbara Brewing Company. The first was a new American Brown Ale, I believe it was dubbed Haley’s Brown (I should have taken notes). It was far hoppier than I expected, and for the first sip the bitterness took me aback. It brought out some of the roasted notes and gave a suggestion of coffee. But, emboldened by that first sip, I went on and tried a little more and as I became accustomed to the flavors I really liked it.

Next up was brewmaster Kevin Pratt’s second iteration of the popular Pacific Pale Ale. I was sad to see the previous recipe go, as it was typically my favorite beer there, but my palate is fickle and quickly warmed up to the new version. The beer wasn’t quite ready to be served yet, but the aroma was inviting enough to make me want to dive in it and maybe just live there for a while. It reminded me of Firestone-Walker Pale 31, which I’ve often said is the one beer I would live on if I had to live on only one beer.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 8.59.16 PM

The same day as the SB Brewco tasting, Kevin Pratt and I had lunch with James and David Burge. Things continue to move slowly for the Burges, but at least they are slowly moving. Still no word on an exact opening, but it appears to be about a month or so away. In the meantime, they gave us a pretty picture to look at via their twitter feed:

(I’m not sure what the issue is with embedding tweets on this blog. I will have to figure that out and fix it).


Telegraph gave locals a sneak peak at their new tasting room during a recent Edible Santa Barbara event. I missed out on the event, but heard it went well. I also heard their new tasting room will be up and running in about a month. This will require more investigation and further reporting, and I will get back on this.


Lastly, these guys. I don’t know much about these guys except that they are one of two or three new breweries opening in the area. I hear they’re small (batch sizes measured in gallons, not barrels) and I hear they’re new. That’s about it. Rumors have them located in Goleta, but I’m not positive on that. Again, there will be updates on Captain Fatty’s soon to come.

That’s it for rumors. If you know of more, feel free to share it with me here:

Heads Up! Something’s Brewing East of the Funk Zone

Note: This column originally appeared in the Santa Barbara News Press on August 1.

TelegraphScreen Shot 2013-07-18 at 8.59.16 PM

Heads Up! Something’s Brewing East of the Funk Zone

David Burge walked outside of the brick building and its roll-top doors to the cement path out front. He turned to face the patch of dirt and weeds on the property, and his eyes looked outward to see what wasn’t there yet.

“Here’s where we’re going to set up the beer garden, with tables and chairs and everything,” David said. “And back there closer to the fence we are thinking about planting some hops.”

The imaginary garden is all part of the plans for Santa Barbara’s newest brewery, Pure Order Brewing Co. at 410 N. Quarantina St., where David and his cousin, James Burge hope to make the leap from amateur home brewers to professionals. The duo hopes to be open in September, and looks to be on track to make their entry into the Santa Barbara beer scene with aplomb.

James will work as the owner/brewmaster, and brings along with him 12 years of home brewing experience. But moving from the kitchen into a production brewery means more than just scaling up a recipe from five gallons to 15 barrels (one barrel = 31 gallons). Fortunately, James and David seem to be on the right path.

The brewery’s indoor facility is dominated by four fermentation tanks that nearly scrape the ceiling. The brew kettle as well as the mash and lauter tun (the vessels used to extract sugar from barley) is tucked away into a corner alongside a large cold room.

In other words the Burges are doing just about everything right. A lot of home brewers make the mistake of jumping into the business with the same cost-cutting attitude that makes home brewing so appealing. However, with poor fermentation control and substandard equipment, many of those brewers are eventually washed away by a market that demands consistency.

Santa Barbara Brewing Company brewmaster Kevin Pratt was on hand for the little, behind-the-scenes peek into Pure Order Brewing, and he left the operation with a stamp of approval.

“This isn’t an amateur setup,” Kevin said. “This is a professional brewery.”

It was important to James and David to make this leap into the brewing business the right way – not just because they cared about the beer, but because they care about Santa Barbara.

The cousins searched for a location for about 18 months before settling on the North Quarantina spot. They nearly signed a lease in Goleta, but backed out at the last second.

“When it came down to signing the paperwork, we just couldn’t pull the trigger,” James said. “We wanted to be in Santa Barbara.”

“We want to be as authentic as possible,” added David, who grew up here and whose passion for his hometown is expressed in the brewery’s slogan, “The Beer of the American Riviera.”

The Burges aren’t alone in their desire to represent Santa Barbara as an emerging destination in the beer world. Telegraph Brewing Company, which has long been the only true packaging brewery in Santa Barbara, is moving one door down into a larger facility.

The old Quonset hut, which is still being renovated and is scheduled to open to the public around Labor Day, will be host to a bigger brewing system, bigger fermentation vessels and a much larger tasting room.

The expansion means that not only will Telegraph be able to brew more of the staples that have made the brewery so popular such as White Ale and California Ale, but the extra fermentation space and storage capacity means that special beers like Reserve Wheat and Petit Obscura will see increased production as well.

It also means an end to Telegraph’s wonky tasting room hours that formerly limited tasting to a few hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

And as for the new competition moving in just a couple blocks away, Telegraph owner Brian Thompson isn’t too worried.

“I’ve met (James and David),” Brian said. “And they’re great guys. I’m really looking forward to their opening.”

If the lines that form outside of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s funk zone location are any indication of the demand for locally-produced beer in Santa Barbara, then the light-industrial zone to the east should be able to sustain a larger presence from an old favorite and a couple of newcomers as well.

Ultimately, the addition of Pure Order and the expansion of Telegraph signifies a foamy, rising tide of better beer in Santa Barbara. The city may not be on quite the same level of a beer Mecca like Bend, Oregon, but these recent developments are steps in that direction.

Goings on In Santa Barbara – Pure Order and Telegraph

Telegraph Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 8.59.16 PM

I wanted to give you all a quick update about some exciting news in Santa Barbara’s beer scene. There will be more on this news in the August 8 edition of the News Press in my column.

First, there are some new players in Santa Barbara’s light industrial zone, as cousins James and Dave Burge are opening Pure Order Brewing Company at 410 Quarantina St. I was worried when I heard that a couple of non pros were jumping into the brewing business. Typically this approach leads to small batches of well-intended, but poorly executed beers.

However, I don’t think this will be the case with the Burges and Pure Order. The brewery is a full-fledged professional operation with no cut corners (at least not in the beer-making department). Dave is a die-hard Santa Barbaran, and I believe that his dedication to the local community will lead to some beautiful things out of the newest players in town. Look for them to open sometime in September (or, knowing the way things tend to work in this industry, October… fingers crossed for September).

Second, I took a peek inside Telegraph Brewing’s New facility. Some rumors were milling about that Telegraph was taking Carr’s space, but that’s simply not true. The Santa Barbara brewery is moving one door north, not south and is still remodeling the building. The good news is that there will be plenty of space for the brewery and a tasting room – which means the tasting room will actually operate on regular hours (my biggest pet peeve with Telegraph has been its wack tasting room hours).

The extra space in the brewery means lots of room to grow and an all-new brewhouse. The expansion will allow Telegraph to meet demand for its California Ale and White Ale, and it gives the brewery more time to focus on its specialty offerings – which, in my opinion, is where its true strength lies.

Check out my full thoughts and hear from the brewery owners themselves in my August 8 column.