The Azusa "chapter" of Congregation Ale House -- the monastic-themed beer bars with outposts in Long Beach and Pasadena -- has converted to a brewpub, and the newly debuted brewed-in-house beers are worthy of praise.
Congregation's owner, Travis Ensling, has a long history in the restaurant and craft beer scene in Los Angeles, and he wanted to bring the spirit of Old World beers, and bars, to Los Angeles while showcasing the exciting new brews from America's surging craft beer movement. Beer is the focus at Congregation, and Ensling is serious about providing a knowledgeable staff that will help the ale houses become centers of the craft beer community in Los Angeles.
The Azusa chapter was remodeled over the spring to add a brewhouse at the front of the restaurant and a row of 10-barrel (about 300-gallon) tanks along the rear of the dining room where the four rotating styles of beer will ferment. The brewers plan to offer two approachable core beers -- one light, and one dark -- that will be available at all three Congregation locations, and use the Azusa brewpub to spotlight more experimental or seasonal releases. These other brews will also be distributed to some craft beer establishments around Los Angeles, and The Bottle Room in Whittier is already pouring some early batches of the Congregation Ales.
The brewing duties are being handled by brewmaster Caleb McLaughlin and enologist-turned-homebrewer Amy Heller. McLaughlin has decades of brewing experience -- and a pair of Great American Beer Fest medals -- and he says he is excited to experiment with many different styles at Congregation, and is looking forward to collaborating with many of L.A.'s other brewers on specialty brews.
I tasted the first batches when interviewing the Congregation crew, and while Ensling and McLaughlin were quick to qualify the flight as experimental and very much in-development, I was genuinely surprised by the quality of the brews on offer. From the light and hoppy Summer Pale to the initial version of the dark-side of the two core beers -- christened Dark of the Covenant -- the lineup showed a lot of promise, and the still-conditioning sample of the dunkle weisse was a fun examples of an Old World beer style that not many Californian craft breweries are making.
The Congregation Brewpub will be producing a few hundred gallons of beer a week, and the brewers are excited to find their niche in Los Angeles and bring more local beer to the underserved Canyon City.
Congregation Brewpub, Azusa Chapter, 619 N Azusa Ave., Azusa; Long Beach Chapter, 201 E Broadway, Long Beach; Pasadena Chapter, 300 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, www.congregationalehouse.com.