Back in 2010, Brian Thompson of Telegraph Brewing Company concocted a batch of beer to coincide with Santa Barbara’s legendary five-day Old Spanish Days Fiesta, which kicks off on July 30. “We didn’t brew nearly enough,” recalled Thompson, who gave most of it away from friends and existing customers. “It may have been gone before Fiesta.”
This year, he’s making more than 10 times as much Cerveza de Fiesta, a malty, Czech-style pilsner with a colorful, Mexico-minded label that’s become the unofficial brew of the annual citywide party. “It was just a fun celebration beer, but then it really rook on a life of its own,” said Thompson, who’s been making craft beer on Salsipuedes Street since 2006 and now considers this cerveza his main summer seasonal offering, available from Fourth of July until supplies run out in September. “We aren’t the official beer of Fiesta by any stretch,” he clarified, “but we do make a point of teaming up as much as we can with Old Spanish Days.”
A big part of the allure is that the beer proves an excellent companion to warm weather, both refreshingly easy-to-drink at just 5 percent alcohol but with enough body and flavor to qualify as a serious craft brew. “Most of our beers aren’t brewed strictly to style guidelines, but this is the one beer that we do take great pains to brew as accurately as possible to the Bohemian or Czech pilsner style,” said Thompson, which means he uses 100 percent pilsner malt and 100 percent noble hops, and even “alters the water profile” because the Czechs make their pilsner with especially soft water. The result is much more user-friendly than often bland American and the more “austere” German pilsners.
“It has some tooth,” he explained, “and it can be a really satisfying beer to drink.” Especially, of course, when served with tacos as a cascarone gets smashed on your head.
Telegraph’s Cerveza de Fiesta will be served at the Celebración de los Dignatarios at the Santa Barbara Zoo on Thursday, July 31, as well as other Old Spanish Days events. It is also available on tap and in markets around town, as well as at the brewery’s tasting room, located at 418 North Salsipuedes Street. Call (805) 963-5018 or visit telegraphbrewing.com.