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Where You Meet Brew: Sunset Beer Company Now Open In Echo Park

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There is a craft beer revolution going on in Los Angeles, and the former proletariat is poised to be the ruling class. Head to the city's eastern communities (leave the east versus west hooey behind) and take note of the robust options for getting a hold of some great brews in Downtown, Eagle Rock, Silver Lake, and Echo Park. If you're looking to get some of that great beer to go back with you to your corner of town, a must stop shop is the just-opened and much-anticipated Sunset Beer Company.

Sunset Beer is the labor of love of a group of four community-focused food and drink folks, of which two are behind Eagle Rock's lovely Colorado Wine Company. They've brought on beer expert Alex Macy as the manager to curate the shop's thoughtful stock and help direct the beer program at the almost unlikely venue.

Situated in the corner of a fairly nondescript recessed strip mall, Sunset Beer Company has a kind of speakeasy caché, since it takes getting through the door to really get a full sense of the well-appointed and welcoming (and big!) space, as well as the extent of the bottled beer for sale in the coolers, and the bar area with its select taps for on-site pours.

At a preview party last week ahead of their weekend opening, I chatted with Macy about how he selected the store's opening stock, and what a beer shopper can expect when they pay a visit.

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Macy acknowledges respectfully that Echo Park is home to some veteran and up-and-coming spots for beers, including El Prado, City Sip, and Mohawk Bend, which indicate that the neighborhood is "really open when it comes to beer." With the craft beer movement enjoying a tremendous popularity right now, Macy says he feels he has a great deal of freedom in curating Sunset Beer's stock. There is a general edict, however. "If I like it, we carry it," he said plainly. "If I don't want to drink it, we won't carry it."

Beer can be alienating for many, particularly because the styles and flavors are so diverse. Macy wants to assure anyone that he and the Sunset staff are looking forward to steering people towards beers they hope they'll love. Though the inventory will be ever-changing, your own beer experiences and preferences are all you'll need when you walk in the door to help get you turned on to something new.

Macy explains that there are a few basic questions he might ask if you're looking for a recommendation, starting with "what do you generally like?" And it's okay if that's PBR--he can work with that. What you're in the mood for, or even what you're planning to have for dinner along with the beer can help guide the ultimate decision. What Macy aims to avoid is having any beer in stock that's flatly unapproachable; some of the quirkier brews, like sours, or really hoppy IPAs, or beers made with espresso, are more approachable than one may initially think.

To help get your tastebuds tuned in, Sunset Beer will hold tasting events, and there's the possibility of an expanded beer making and drinking education program once the shop settles in a bit. For now, expect to gather around the bar and try some pours, perhaps paired with cheese (like Macy did with the help of Alex Brown at Colorado Wine Company this summer), and get to know some new labels.

While they do have taps at the bar, Macy says he plans for those to showcase some special brews that are not available by the bottle, with a goal of keeping those pours affordable, in the $6 range. When it comes to the expansive and evolving bottle stock, Macy says Sunset Beer's pricing is decisively competitive.

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The coolers might appear intimidating, but there is a method to the madness. The basic principle of organization right now separates Californian brews from other domestics, and Belgian and German imports from other imports. (Personally, I went right to the Hitachino Ginger Brew, which I first tried in Vegas at a Beer & BBQ event.)

At the end of the day, though, it's about beer, and enjoying drinking it. If you're just a newbie drinker with an open palate, a total beer geek, or somewhere in between, you're in the right the place.