What the Ale! Congregation Ale House Opens Its First OC Location

Saison, saison, say-say-say saison. Congregation Ale House’s take on the classic. Photo by Greg Nagel

While on a recent appetizer-and-drink crawl along Calle Cuatro in downtown Santa Ana, I thought to myself, “Santa Ana could use another bar.” Suddenly, a ray of sunshine poked through the puffy clouds and a loud voice spoke: “AS YOU WISH, MY SON.” And Congregation Ale House DTSA Chapter was born.

As an ordained smoking altar boy at the Cosmic Church of the Grieving Angel, having a permanent abbey to pay penance to the day’s misgivings is cleansing, to say the least.

If you go at the right time of day, the sun’s rays shine through the ornamental, baroque, Spanish iron railings of the historic Santora building and cast shadows onto the altar-like taproom wall. The digital beer list and food menu is kept current with a mix of old-world Belgian and German beers as well as plenty of local craft on draft and in bottles. House beers such as the saison and Our Daily IPA are equally as good as the historically delicious guest beers, each poured into proper glassware.

A few basic $10 cocktails and wines are also available to sip with the house pizzas, burgers, sausages, sandwiches, snacks and desserts.

Congregation’s space is open and airy—two words I wouldn’t have necessarily used to describe the location’s previous tenants. There are ample seats at the communal table, plenty of bar space, and a couple of private booths indoors. If you’re feeling like imbibing al fresco, several patio tables sit on the brick-lined walkway of the artists’ village near one of Jorge Marín’s excellent “Wings of the City” sculptures. The décor is sparkling and new, with easily the best layout of any bar in the area.

The (beer) bar has been raised.

Congregation Ale House, 201 E. Broadway Ave., Santa Ana; congregationalehouse.com.

Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening this June!

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