Telegraph Brewing Company Beer Tasting at the Jug Shop

On Friday, January 21 I was sipping a beer at City Beer Store, in San Francisco, when I read on Twitter, from @AllOverBeer, that Telegraph Brewing was doing a beer tasting of a huge selection of their beer. I also learned that Brian Thompson, Founder and CEO of Telelgraph, would be there to answer questions. Since I’ve been wanting to try their beer for a while, this was the perfect opportunity and setting to try them out.

If you’re not familiar with Telegraph Brewing Company, they are a craft brewery based out of Santa Barbara, CA. They offer distinctive beers presented in distinctive packaging; i.e. I really like their labels and I like their beer even more.

While I was tasting the beer I has an opportunity to talk briefly with Brian Thompson, the Founder and CEO, of Telegraph Brewing. When I mentioned that I liked the fact that his beer was refreshingly unique, he said, “[we] don’t want to do the same beers as everybody else.” And I think they have succeeded in that endeavor. He also mentioned that they are trying to get a larger presence in San Francisco and the Bay Area and will be planning more events over the next year.  I think this will be a welcome addition to what we can already find in the Bay Area, especially Telegraph’s special releases.

For only $15, the Jug Shop ( offered Telegraph beers that are both readily available in stores and also a few that are not, or at least will not be back in stores for several months. The tasting included samples of White Ale, Golden Wheat Ale, Reserve Wheat, Gypsy Ale, Oatmeal Stout, California Ale, Robust Ale, Stock Porter, Winter Ale, and Rhinoceros. The following are my tasting notes and a few details about each of the beers that were served at the tasting.

White Ale. The white ale is a Belgian-style witbier made with chamomile. It has the characteristic banana with a hint of clove. Similar in some ways to Allagash White but more floral. The coriander gives it a nice spice while the chamomile enhances the floral nature of the beer.

Golden Wheat Ale from April ’10. This beer was actually infected by lactobacillus. Although this was not intentional, it does add something interesting to the beer. It has a little tart sourness, a hint of bitterness, and is light with a little sweetness.

Reserve Wheat Ale. Where the Golden Wheat Ale was not intentionally sour, this beer was purposefully inoculated with both lactobacillus and brettanomyces.   Reserve wheat is sour and earthy like hay or a farm. It also has a touch of sweetness that comes through like a crisp apple or an Asian pears. It is quite delicious especially if you like sour beer.

Gypsy Ale. This beer was a real treat, delicious, and very unique. It is another sour beer and this one is made with local Santa Rosa variety plums and also inoculated with brettanomyces. Brian informed me that the plums actually came from his back yard. For next Fall’s batch, however, they’ll need more so the plums will be coming from a farm. Gypsy Ale has a strong plum and sour presence, which makes it smell a lot like umeboshi, Japanese pickled plums. It is also earthy, like hay, a possibly a bit earthy like mushrooms. It has a nice balance of both sourness and sweetness.  It is complex and  interesting and maybe even a tiny bit spicy. I picked up two bottles for myself, which I plan on aging to see how the brett will change the beer over time.

Oatmeal Stout. This beer is rich and creamy with a chocolate quality making it quite delicious.

California Ale. The Califonia Ale has a subtle and clean sour flavor balanced with some maltiness, which is almost like caramel. It also has some bitterness and spice to it as well.

Robust Ale. This is another malty, sweet, and earthy beer. The earthiness in this one is a little bit like mushrooms.

Stock Porter. Telegraph makes a great porter that is full bodied, roasty, and coffee-like with notes of chocolate.

Winter Ale. This is a winter all like no others. The cinnamon and ancho chile in this beer give it a quality  reminiscent of Chinese five-spice but without the fennel and anise. In addition to the ancho and cinnamon, this beer also has a noticeable and pleasant helping of allspice. The Mexican hot chocolate inspired beer is scrumptious, spicy, unique, and awesome.

Rhinoceros. This beer is a “rye wine” made like a barleywine but with a significant about of rye. It is very malty, sweet, earthy but not astrigent fo a beer with 10% abv. The sweetness is nicely balanced by bitterness from the hops to give it that dark-sugar molasses-like sweetness. The texture is quite viscous, some bitterness. Rhinoceros is a bold and tasty brew.

I was pleased to find that it was difficult to find a favorite from all of these beers that I sampled. Every beer was well crafted and had its own unique qualities but the three that stood out the most for me were Gypsy Ale, Winter Ale, and Rhinoceros. They had unique, yet well balanced flavors while exhibiting quality craftsmanship.

Thank you to Eric, from the Jug Shop (, and Brian Thompson for putting on a great event that exposed me to such wonderful new beer. I can’t wait to have Telegraph beer more readily available in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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About David Jensen

David is a craft beer and photography enthusiast.
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One Response to Telegraph Brewing Company Beer Tasting at the Jug Shop

  1. The Gypsy Ale looks and sounds like an incredible sour. If you happen to run into Brian again, tell him after he expands in the Bay Area to make his way to the South. Great beer things are happening in Atlanta.

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