Jeff Sapsford started working for Sunset Beer Company Company in Echo Park beginning in 2011 and now serves as General Manager of the bottle shop and craft beer hangout. I recently corresponded with Sapsford to learn more about Sunset Beer Company and his crafty approach.
What are you looking for in a beer to be on tap or for sale in the bottle portion of the shop?
This is probably the easiest part of the job and I think most clearly defines who we want to be as a shop. Everyone that works here or shops here is a fan of beer and trying new things. So we try to keep a steady stream of seasonal/special release beer coming in, while blending in a bunch of newly available international breweries we may be less familiar with. There is so much out there available to try right now it’s really exciting.
We are also proud of the relationships we have started to develop with our customers. Conversations about beer they like and want to try will always play a role in what we bring in. But, I suppose we bring in a fair amount of what we like to drink. It’s OK to be selfish sometimes.
Do new breweries ask for feedback, typically?
Yes, all the time. We have tried to bring in all the new breweries that have popped up over the last couple of years in L.A. As we all grow, it is helpful to see what the customer is buying and how they are responding to it. With us being a mixture of retail and bar, we can help launch both draft and bottling lines. We may be a pretty small sample size, but I think we have a super experimental customer base. So yes, we love being a part of the beer scene and help in any way we can.
How do you plan special events like tap takeovers or Meet the Brewer’s nights?
We always want to support local first. We recently did an event with El Segundo Brewing to help launch their new bottling line. It was such a nice event as it brought out other brewers from around L.A. It’s a huge honor when you look around and see that we have started to build an environment in which people in the industry enjoy spending time.
Beer and food pairing events have also been a lot of fun. The only real plan is to have fun with tap takeovers and provide a situation for the customer to come in, get to know the people who brew, and hopefully learn something new about the entire culture.
You’re known for having good beer, and people seek that out, but what’s more important, having good beer, or having a good environment to drink the beer?
It has to be all of those things. But it gets back to what I was mentioning about getting to know the customer. We are located in such a unique part of Los Angeles, with a mixture of long time Angelenos, a ton of people from the Midwest and a few East Coast transplants like me, that a fun and interesting dynamic takes shape. You can walk out onto our patio and just overhear some pretty neat conversations with people who may have never run in to each other, but are here bonding and talking over craft beer. I feel like we are becoming a special place in that respect.
How has the L.A. Beer Scene changed since Sunset Beer opened?
It seems crazy to think that a lot has changed in a little over a year but it has! It is hard to keep track of all the new breweries and draft rooms that are opening up. There is the LA Beer Hop bus that helps shuttle beer enthusiasts all over this giant town and more and more home brewers every day. I can remember coming here to visit 5 years ago and checking everywhere for San Diego beers I could not get on the East Coast. But now when people come to visit they are drinking what’s brewed in Los Angeles. We can’t be more thrilled to be a part of it all.
Where do you see Sunset Beer in 5 years?
In the most sincere way I can answer this question, I see us as being more and more a part of the community. I cannot say enough how meaningful it is to know our customers by name, sharing stories of beer travel and even getting to know their families. Really, I see us continuing on the same trend we are on now. That is, continuing to grow both as a business and a part of the LA beer scene, while most importantly providing everyone who comes in a wonderful, informative experience.
What if you were only given one more glass of beer, what would it be?
Only one more? Can’t really answer the desert island beer question. But if I look at it like what would having a beer in Heaven be like? Then I’d say it goes back to a memory of when I first started getting in to craft beer…floating in raft on a lake in central Virginia with good friends sipping on a Victory Hop Devil IPA. Has anyone ever plowed under their corn field to build a brewery?