Pasadena’s trendiest new hot spot
is a unique – and novel – concept
PASADENA’S newest and hippest watering hole – hitherto undiscovered – is a unique concept who’s time has arrived.
The Congregation Ale House is located on the corner of Raymond Avenue and Del Mar Boulevard in Pasadena. There are two others: Long Beach and Azusa.
© Warren Swil, 2013
Congregation Ale House on South Raymond Avenue is the third and most recent pub in the “chain,” which opened it’s first “congregation” in Long Beach just over two years ago.
“It’s a Belgium-style pub with no traditional service,” Manager Matthew Garcia told me and LA Times desk Editor Steve Devol when we, by arrangement, stopped in for a brew on Thursday afternoon.
NOTE: A factual error in this post has been corrected since it was first published.
IT’S definitely not a low-brow tavern.
After one has downloaded the Congregation Ale House app to a smartphone, the fun begins.
“As soon as you open a tab,” Garcia said, “employees can then place an order for you through the app.”
Garcia, 27, has been with the Congregation since September, 2011. He began as a bartender in the Azusa Congregation (the second location to open) but quickly advanced. In four months, he said, he became a manager.
Matthew Garcia, left, sits for the interview for this story with me on the patio on Thursday afternoon.
© Warren Swil, 2013
CLOSE to the Del Mar Gold Line station, the pub couldn’t be more convenient for someone like Steve, who arrived promptly from his office on Spring Street, which is also near where he and his wife, Sue, now live.
He chose the spot for us to meet, because “I wanted to find a place close the Gold Line,” he said.
Since moving from Burbank to downtown after selling their home before the real estate market crashed, Steve and Sue have sold one of their cars, while the remaining one sits mostly unused.
They now often travel on public transit. How many other Angelenos can say the same? (Steve also uses his bicycle.)
The online menu is imaginative and graphically creative. Flip through the pages before you go so it doesn’t take you half an hour to decide what to pick when you get there.
MANAGER Garcia seems to know a great deal about every one of the brews on the Ale House bill of fare. “I have studied beer,” he said.
He then launched into a detailed account of why some brews have such a special flavor. “A lot of beer is better if aged,” he said.
Wow! Doesn’t everyone believe it’s better fresh?
“Some is better fresh,” Garcia said. But the others are brewed in used oak barrels, which previously were the containers for other types of beverages like whiskey or bourbon.
The oak retains the residue after the fermentation process, and when the original liquid is bottled, the barrel is recycled for brewing beer.
“So the oak residuals [emerge] in the new beer [as it ages],” Garcia explained.
Who knew? Certainly not me!
THE CONCEPT for Congregation Ale House is derived from Trappist monks,
who, among other things, are noteworthy for their skills at brewing beer.
Trappists are a branch of the Cistercian order, observing the austere reformed rule established at La Trappe in 1664.
Garcia explained that genuine “Trappist beer” has to be brewed by monks.
Well, there’s none of them employed by this Ale House. But the principles of Trappism are surely evident everywhere.
As you can tell from the images, the décor is far from “austere.” The long tables with bench seating encourage socializing.
The outdoor patio is superb on a spring (or summer) day. It’s a great pity there are not more watering holes in Pasadena or elsewhere that take advantage of the year-round Southern California “summer” with outdoor accommodations like those at Ale House.
For more information, visit the imaginative web site for Congregation Ale House.
Better yet, go down to the pub. It is opposite the under-construction new home of the Pasadena Humane Society. On the corner of Raymond and Del Mar.
You won’t be disappointed.