The first six months of this year have been a whirlwind of growth for the L.A. beer scene. Strand and Beachwood and El Segundo now regularly bottle their beer, breweries are experimenting with everything from session beers to pickle weisses, and Smog City Brewing opened its doors, making Torrance the undeniable center of the region's craft beer movement.
But in the midst of all the craft beer-centric festivals, celebrations and dinners that have attempted to put these growth spurts into context this summer, Los Angeles County became another two breweries richer with the grand opening this month of both Azusa's Congregation Ales and Lakewood's Timeless Pints.
Congregation Ales is the beer-making wing of Congregation Ale House Chapters, the monastic-themed pub mini-chain (Catholic schoolgirl outfits, anyone?) that started in Long Beach three years ago. (Full disclosure: I worked there as a bartender until last year but had no role in the brewery developments.)
Though the Pasadena location used to be the home of Crown City Brewery back in the day, the Azusa chapter had far more space to accommodate a brewhouse, so in the last six months, kettles and fermenters were dragged in, turning the brick building on North Azusa Avenue into the new home of Congregation Ales.
At a "re-christening" of the Azusa brewpub chapter last week, Brewmaster Caleb McLaughlin and Brewer Amy Heller (yes, a lady!) talked to eager drinkers about their first pours: a refreshing and lightly hopped Summer pale ale, an easy-drinking Belgian-style saison, a balanced malty dark ale called Dark of the Covenant and a 90-shilling Scotch ale made as a collaboration with Bootleggers Brewery in Fullerton.
An unnamed white ale is still in the works and, along with Dark of the Covenant, will be found on tap at the other Congregation locations as well as several choice accounts throughout the region. For the special brews and one-offs, however, you'll still have to drive to Azusa and pray at the altar there.
Unlike some breweries that come onto our radar while still in planning stages, discovering Timeless Pints' grand opening this past weekend was a dig. Made known strictly through word-of-mouth in the weeks before, the large crowd that showed up on Friday night was a testament to the production brewery's neighborhood feel and local roots.
Started by former post office technician and longtime hobby homebrewer Chris Sparacio, Timeless Pints grew organically out of his onetime garage operation and is the first non-brewpub to make beer in the greater Long Beach area.
From two Lakewood industrial units adjacent to the Long Beach Airport, Sparacio makes clean, solid ales with names that are meant to tell stories like A Swarm and a Hatter (a honey blond), The Bear Reader (a huckleberry oatmeal stout) and The Expeditious Guest (an IPA). Each beer has its own artfully designed logo that will grace keg rings and growlers -- as soon as label approval comes in.
Until then, all brews (including a Red IPA and others being released in the coming weeks) are only available by the taster or pint at the brewery's taproom, which is open Thursday through Sunday. Grub is provided by local food trucks.
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