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Brewery Owner Brian Thompson Trades Wall Street for a Dream

He reaps the dividends of his financial savvy as owner of Santa Barbara's Telegraph Brewing Co.

Brian Thompson was working on Wall Street from 2000 to 2003 when he decided he had had enough of the financial world. Instead of dealing with stocks, today he is stocking award-winning brews at Telegraph Brewing Co., 416 N. Salsipuedes St. in Santa Barbara.

“I quit my job in New York City, and my wife and I moved back to California,” Thompson, a Bay Area native, told Noozhawk. For a short time before leaving New York state, he took a job at a microbrew pub.

“I had been home-brewing since my college days, almost 20 years, and to open my own brewery was a dream,” he said.

After putting together some capital, using his financial savvy and deciding Santa Barbara was the place to start, Thompson opened Telegraph Brewing in early 2006. Since then, his handcrafted brews have won gold, silver and bronze medals in the Los Angeles County Fair beer competition.

Thompson proved he had the financial know-how to keep his business growing even in a recession when the price of hops soared. Rather than pay the high price for that key beer ingredient, Thompson decided to ride out the storm until the price of hops came back down.

“The hops prices went up 500 percent,” Thompson said, but he managed to keep his products in the $8 range. “We use as many locally grown ingredients as we can.”

He said his philosophy is that a local brewery should reflect the traditions of its region. The goal is to produce beer styles that have a spirit of invention and creativity, with a nod toward history.

“We’re more into quality than quantity,” Thompson said.

Telegraph’s brews are made in small batches in a traditional copper brewery. Thompson said it’s important to pair his products with food that diners in Santa Barbara love to eat.

“Just like they love local wines, they will love our local beers,” he said.

Diners can drink Telegraph brews at fine restaurants such as the Wine Cask and The Hungry Cat, while going back for more at South Coast markets such as Lazy Acres, Tri-County Produce and Whole Foods,  to name a few. The brews also can be found throughout California, Thompson said.

He said he likes to think his products are “a bit recession-proof” because “beer still is an affordable luxury” in tough times.

Not to take all of the credit, Thompson said he owes a lot of his success to his “solid” beer-making staff. “These guys know what they are doing,” he said.

The staff has been making a Belgian-style white ale, golden wheat ale, California wheat ale, stock porter and reserve wheat ale. Coming up soon will be a “gypsy ale,” brewed with wild yeast and plums, Thompson said.

Telegraph Brewing’s tasting room hours are 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Thompson said he plans to expand those hours later this year.

Noozhawk business writer Ray Estrada can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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