In the 90′s we started referring to ourselves as ‘beer geeks’. Back then, the moniker for us had nothing to do with being able to discern and describe the subtle nuances of beer. Heck, we can’t even do that now. It was more a way to convey the lengths to which we would go for good beer. Living in Oakland, it was commonplace for us to travel to some far off brewpub, such as Anderson Valley, have a few beers and head back home.
Our Independence Day mini beer tour stirred up in me feelings of nostalgia about our early gonzo travels for beer. We had been wanting to visit Telegraph Brewing in Santa Barbara for quite some time but hadn’t had a chance to fit it into our schedule. Then, a beer release made for an imperative trip.
At the end of June, Firestone Walker released their Double IPA, Double Jack. Offered in limited quantities, I knew I would have to seek out Double Jack somewhere else because it would most likely not make it to the Monterey Peninsula. A visit to the brewery seemed to be the best bet. Armed with a reason to head south on Hwy 101, we decided to go all the way to Santa Barbara first, then hit Paso Robles on the way home. Voila!… our July 4th beer tour was born.
Early on July 4th, we loaded Porter and Stout into the car and were soon zooming south. We welcomed the cool weather on this holiday because we wanted to bring the dogs. Going away in a couple of weeks, quality time with the pups was important. After four hours of driving, we found ourselves on a beach in beautiful sunny Santa Barbara. The dogs were pleased to get out of the car and Stout was soon catching the frisbee while Porter did his normal hound dog thing. But we weren’t in Santa Barbara to go to the beach. So after a quick walk, it was time to try some beer.
I’ll admit I am a sucker for breweries that are really casual and laid back. I love the roll up the door, ”c’mon in and have a beer” attitude, a seemingly simple concept not grasped by all breweries. Telegraph Brewing gives off that exact vibe. Arriving a half hour after they opened, we joined a small crowd in the tasting area of their industrial space to try a few beers.
There were four beers to try: White Ale, Golden Wheat Ale, California Ale and Stock Porter. We both ordered the $6 taster set which included a sample of all four beers plus a 10 ounce pour of our favorite. Telegraph also sells 10 oz glass and 16 oz pints, plus growlers, bottles and kegs to go.
The beers were worth the four hour drive. I liked all four with the White Ale and the Stock Porter being the standouts for me. The White Ale, a Belgian-style Wit, was a perfect accompaniment for the sunny Santa Barbara weather. And the Stock Porter, a blend of fresh and barrel aged beer, hit the spot with its chocolaty, roasted flavor and 5.7% ABV. Merideth’s star was the Golden Wheat Ale.
We could have hung out all afternoon, but we needed to head back north. Buying a few bottles for home, we rejoined the dogs and started back up Hwy 101 to find some Double Jack.
A couple hours later we reached our halfway home point, the Firestone Walker tasting room in Paso Robles. And I was drinking a Double Jack.
What a wonderful beer! I am a huge fan of Pliny the Elder but I might like Double Jack a little better. It has a little more malt balance to go with the hop bomb characteristics. My only fault with Double Jack is that it might be a little too easy to drink for a 9.5% beer.
Firestone Walker was a quick visit. Despite our early start, it was already getting late and the dogs were hungry. Back on Hwy 101, we continued north for the last two hours home.
After almost 12 hours on the road, we were back at home relaxing in front of the TV and enjoying a brewery fresh Union Jack. What a perfect ending to a nice July 4th with the family.