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. But beer is an affordable luxury, as we’re so fond of pointing out, and the economic downturn has seen many people trading up for that luxury-added value. 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 five years ago, 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.
This just in!
Congratulations are in order to Brian and Telegraph’s Head Brewer Scott Baer—the brewery just took home a Gold and a Silver medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival—a Gold for their flagship “California Ale”, and a Silver for their sour-mash, wild ale “Petit Obscura.” Cheers gentlemen.
For more information about the Telegraph Brewing Company, check out their website at: