For a brute force attack to actually succeed (even in a theoretical way), the attacker must know "something" about the plaintext, to know whether he found the right key or not. Said otherwise: if all the attacker knows about the plaintext is that it is a bunch of random bytes, then, for each tried key, that's exactly what he will get: a bunch of random-looking bytes.
On the other hand, if the attacker found it worthwhile to attack the system (because a 256 exhaustive search is, while feasible, quite expensive), then he must have some a priori knowledge of what he will find. This can be anything like a standard format (e.g. data is XML, beginning with a XML header; or data is compressed with
gzip and thus begins with a
gzip header) or even some basic information like "the plaintext is some text which 'makes sense'".
English text with ASCII encoding will use only some byte values, namely byte values from 32 to 126 (inclusive), and possibly also 9 (horizontal tabulation), 10 and 13 (LF and CR, respectively, for end-of-lines), 12 (vertical tabulation), and possibly 26 (end-of-file on DOS/Windows systems). So that's 100 out of 255 possible byte values. A decryption of a single DES block (8 bytes) with a wrong key has probability about (100/255)8 to consist only in this set of "plausible characters". Since the attacker has 256 keys to try, he must decrypt n blocks so that the probability of accepting a wrong key is no more than 2-56. This is achieved as soon as n = 6 (because (100/255)8*6 ≤ 2-56). This leads to an exhaustive search attack where the attacker decrypts 6 blocks per potential key, filtering out wrong keys by looking at the obtained characters.
Now, let's face it, "8g.;=7Zf" is not exactly "text which makes sense". So the attacker actually knows a lot more than "the plaintext consists only in printable ASCII characters". He could filter out wrong decryption which yield only printable characters but not plausible text excerpts. He could also get, say, a thousand "possible keys" (each yielding something which, from the point of view of a computer, is text-with-sense-like) and finish the job by hand (the human brain is very good at spotting real text among a list of gibberish-looking characters). So an attacker could use, say, two or three blocks and still get things done.
It is very hard to quantify how efficient the attacker will be at filtering out wrong decryption, because it depends on what the attacker "guesses", somthing which is in the realm of psychology, not computer science. Therefore, academics use the "safe convention" of considering that the attacker has a known plaintext block: he knows with 100% certainty an 8-byte plaintext for which he also has the corresponding ciphertext. This might not be true in an actual attack situation, but you cannot really foresee it.