Santa Barbara's Telegraph Brewing is the epitome of the eager, experimental microbrewery, enthusiastic about local ingredients and unfamiliar techniques. Its 19th century version of porter will shock most people by being tart.
However, its flagship brew, California Ale, is totally accessible. It's a mouth-filling beer, unfiltered, fairly hoppy and rather malty with a subtle citrus note. Perhaps because it's sealed with a cork, a la Champagne, some people seem to think of it as a French saison, but I'd call it just a great big amber ale. Coppery in color with a huge white head, it's a little earthy on the palate with some sweetness showing up late. It would be great with grilled meat or particularly fish.
-- Charles Perry
Style: A big, earthy, likable amber ale
Price: $6.99 to $7.99 for 22 ounces