7.18.2009

Bowing to the God of Beer

The man behind the bar placed the beer on the counter. As I reached for the frothy glass, he barked,"No! Put your hands down and bow to the God of Beer." He wasn't kidding. He was austere as he motioned for me to bend over and sip - no hands. With a straight back and my arms behind me, I took a first sip, wondering if I was allowed to use an arm to wipe the foam off my lips. But he was fine with that. The God of Beer had been honored, and now and it was time to relax.

The man I am referring to is Sam Samaniego. I hadn't even wanted the beer. When my husband and I went to The Stuffed Sandwich for dinner, I ordered a soda. Big mistake. Mr. Samaniego gave me a puzzled look, as if only children were allowed to stoop to that level. "It's nothing personal," I said, "I just don't like beer." With a knowing smile he answered,"Of course you do. You just haven't tried the right one yet." He figured it wouldn't be too hard to find me something, as The Stuffed Sandwich is home to over 700 beers. That's right, 700 - the largest collection of beers in any US restaurant.

In an unassuming Los Angeles suburb with an unassuming facade, Sam and his wife Marlene preside over the place. While the establishment's name implies food -and they do make some serious business between two slices of bread - everyone knows this is a mecca for beer lovers.

In 1976, brew pubs were not legal in California so the couple sold imported beers. Soon their collection of 100 varieties climbed to 700, and the walls gleam with so many bottles, you can't help but imagine what the place would be like in an earthquake. He also has an ever-rotating collection of seven beers on tap.

Keep in mind this eccentric establishment cares more for the love of beer than the almighty dollar. If you do not submit to Sam, he will turn you away. My husband ordered a beer from him, and Sam shook his head, eyes closed. "You're not ready for it," he decreed. One must be prepared to answer a flurry of personality questions so that Sam may determine which beer belongs to you. And when he tells you to bow to the God of Beer, well then by God, you must bow.

Visit the Stuffed Sandwich website

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