Telegraph Brewing Company - Buellton Silent Partner
- ABV: 7.4%
- Serving Temperature: 48–55° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Chalice, or Pinot Glass
Two Rare Beer Club exclusives in one month!? Absolutely. We've always been aiming to set up more and more special releases for our supportive membership, and we've had more luck (and endless, thirsty diligence!) in the past year or so than ever before. And—here in our 21st year—we've had plenty of practice along the way. For this one, we've managed to secure for our Rare Beer Club members the elusive Buellton Silent Partner from California’s ascendent Telegraph Brewing Company: a saison collaboration with the band Buellton to coincide with the release of their album “Silent Partner.” This beer (the second batch of it ever made) will only see distribution through our club, with a small amount set aside for their tasting room.
And what a great looking beer, offering everything we'd hope for from a world-class saison from the onset. A beautiful, hazed honey-golden like a sunrise, bright and bold in the glass, with a firm white head that tends to fill up the remainder of one’s room. Solid retention and lacing that coats the interior, and minuscule, glistening bubbles from its bottle conditioning.
The additions of Meyer lemon peel and cracked Malabar black pepper show very nicely here in the aroma, offering up a bright citrusy pith along with spicy, earthy peppery notes that are a perfect match to the core yeast character. They position themselves seamlessly followed up by soothing vanilla, almond skins, and ripe pear. The ferment plus bottle conditioning dried this out well, removing distracting sweetness and allowing those special additions to pop.
Throughout, without knowing the lemon peel and pepper contributions as such, one would be inclined to interpret the overall profile as just ideally fermented saison with a charismatic yeast strain and super-fresh hop additions. The extra adds are done deftly: just more layers.
This is a saison worth spending time digging into. That lemon peel, as citrus generally does, hits the tongue near the very front of things, contributing a juicy immediacy to the complete package. The pepper, from both the Malabar addition and yeast, offers satisfying bitterness that serves as a complementing edge and keeps things on point. But there's still so much to this beyond those auxiliary elements: a Pilsner malt core that crackles, fruity notes of limes and other tree fruit, and pillowy esters etc. comprising everything from vanilla to a bready, crusty mellowness. As it warmed we found touches of cinnamon, burnt sugar, and pear.
Those early-on notes from the Meyer lemon and black pepper will fade over time, and we are inclined to encourage our Rare Beer Club members to enjoy those aspects at a relatively early point, ideally within six months or so. But this is sturdy and bottle conditioned, so we imagine the saison core as a whole will hold up for quite some time. Enjoy those citrusy and vanilla-like elements as a complement to grilled seafood or beside a vanilla-y, crusty dessert.
Telegraph Brewing Company founder Brian Thompson developed his passion for beer as an undergrad in the Bay Area during the early 90s as the country’s first microbrewing renaissance took hold. Like many brewers before him, he had picked up a dangerous habit: homebrewing. The practice has been known to incite abandonment of practicality and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. In some, this “gateway” practice has even been known to lead to a selloff of personal possessions or mortgaging of homes to support a jump to more hardcore behavior: professional brewing.
Brian holds an M.B.A. from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley—both major scholastic accolades, for sure. Yet his homebrewing hobby ultimately grew into such an obsession that after a career in publishing and another career as a financial analyst, he couldn’t resist the urge to start a craft brewery of his own. So after an experience-garnering stint as a keg washer at Greenpoint Beerworks in Brooklyn, NY, he moved back to California and started Telegraph Brewing in Santa Barbara, along California’s gorgeous Central Coast. And he did it in 2006, just before the full unfurling of the global financial crisis.
Sound scary? We’re sure it was, but not enough so to ‘rehabilitate’ the man. He remains profoundly obsessed with the brewing of beer. And, that M.B.A. from Cornell appears to have helped him develop a crafty enough business plan for Telegraph B.C. to grow in this difficult economy—even in an area that had little native market established for high-end, craft-brewed beer. Brian has even witnessed plenty of locals side-stepping expensive wines in order to sample new, ‘native’ beer. While the brewery remains pretty small, they’ve been quite satisfied to mainly limit distribution to their local area. This is key to the principles behind their founding. As Brian puts it “Telegraph Brewing Company was born from the idea that a local brewery should reflect in its beers the culinary and agricultural traditions of its region. Our small team of brewers handcrafts unique American and Belgian-inspired beers that embrace the heritage of California's early brewing pioneers, using as many locally grown ingredients as possible… Here at Telegraph we are proud to be a small part of California's rich brewing heritage and we hope that with each pint you can taste the perfect blend of the past and the future.”
Since their founding, Telegraph's award-winning beers have been imbued with a spirit of invention and creativity, but always with a nod toward history. Their beers combine the best of the Belgian, English, and American brewing traditions. Brewed with 100% domestic ingredients, but with the creative spirit Belgian brewers have long brought to their art, their brewers strive to make beers in styles often neglected in today’s craft-beer world, which is largely dominated by the pursuit of ever more hops and ever higher alcohol. “Balanced” is a word that can be used to describe almost all of Telegraph’s beers, from their delicate and citrusy White Ale, to their flagship California Ale with the perfect blend of hops and malt, to their “wild” ales that are distinctly sour and rustic without straying into mouth-puckering territory. According to Brian, “we like to think that all of our beers exemplify everything that is great about life in Santa Barbara and on the Central Coast.”
We’ve had the good fortune to work our way through a few of their beers, and we think they’ve nailed it. For more information about Telegraph Brewing Company, check out their website at: www.telegraphbrewing.com.
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