Rest in Peace: Stuffed Sandwich’s Sam Samaniego

Sam SamaniegoThe Full Pint remembers Los Angeles Legend Sam Samaniego, and shares some thoughtful words from some of his closest friends and fans. Rest in Peace.

The Full Pint heard the sad news last evening that Los Angeles Craft Beer Legend, Sam Samaniego passed away. Without getting into personal detail, we know that Sam has been battling against health issues for a few years now, with stays in and out of hospitals.  For those not familiar, Sam was the founder of Los Angeles landmark craft beer destination Stuffed Sandwich. Long before Blue Palms and Whole Foods market, Sam broke away from the norm of serving Post-Prohibition light lager in favor of flavorful micro-brewed beer at his small sandwich shop, introducing nearly three generations of people to the wonderful world of craft beer.

Not only was Sam a pioneer in serving craft beer, he introduced many of us to the idea of aging or cellaring beer like some people cellar wine. When I first visited The Stuffed Sandwich, I immediately noticed his collection of Stone Brewing Co. beers, vintage Sierra Nevada Bigfoots and even Celebration Ale. It was also my introduction to bottle shares, which many of you know I love being a part of. He was a character, he had a loyal following, and he made an incredible impact on not only the Los Angeles beer scene, but the entire region of Southern California. He will be missed by many. Sam’s lovely wife Marlene is left behind to help carry on the legacy of Sam and Stuffed Sandwich, whether you know her or not, please send her your best wishes and a helping hand.

We would like to share some kind words from some of Sam’s closest friends.

Steve Almaraz, Vice President of Sales – Firestone Walker Brewing 

Such sad news.  I was hoping Sam would get better and we could have done a tribute for him.  I spoke to a few of the players and they all wanted to do something.  I am really sorry that it is too late for that.  He would have wanted the final recognition of his accomplishments for LA beer scene.

I met Sam back in 1991 when I worked for Shield Brewing out of Ventura.  Sam was one of my first accounts I sold to and I immediately took all his knowledge about beer that he so graciously offered up.  I always enjoyed that pastrami sandwich he made.

I then took a job with one of his distributors Shamrock Imports and became his rep for his store.  Sam was one of my best customers and knew more about the beers than I did back then.

I was able to secure him as much Sierra Celebration and Bigfoot Ale as he could fit into the store and his house.  I truly enjoyed the many conversations we had about beer, from Belgium beers to German, to emerging craft breweries.  He was the most knowledgeable guy I knew in the early 90’s on beers and was always open to talk about it.

Sam and Marlene have always supported my endeavors.  When I took the job at Firestone Walker he really supported us as one of the first places to carry our beer in LA.

I was not as in touch with him in the past few years due to my role at Firestone Walker.  I will always remember Sam and his love for Barley wines, the top hat, and his wit and humor.

He was the one of the original pioneers for craft and specialty beers in LA.  I will remember him always and may he Rest In Peace.  My next beer will be dedicated to Sam!

Randy Clemens, Author and TFP Alumnus

We’re beyond lucky to have such a thriving beer scene in Los Angeles, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as robust had it not been for Sam and Marlene’s pioneering work at the Stuffed Sandwich. (Open since 1976!) If there’s somewhere we go after this life, I can only hope that Sam and Dave Farnworth are toasting each other with a huge 3-liter bottle of something special. Thank you Sam. Thank you Marlene. I hope you know how much you are loved and respected by the LA craft beer family.

Robert Reiber, longtime friend and patron of Stuffed Sandwich

Just heard about this and wow. Just wow. Sam and Marlene have treated me like family since I met them 6 years ago. For a guy that put a lot of effort into acting like a grumpy old man he was a very kind soul. He helped me put tastings together, he always shared the stuff the distributors gave him to try with the Wednesday night crew, and would bring out some fun stuff to share. Everyone knew him, from Alan Sprints and Greg Koch back when they were homebrewers to the guys at Sierra Nevada and Anchor. He was always brutally honest but very fair and enjoyed having all his friends around for a good time whether it was at the shop or at the southern California homebrew fest or anywhere else. He’d always have some witty comeback. I’m going to miss having him around (or even just hearing about how he is doing as was the case the last two years) on Wednesdays. I raise this glass of Rodenbach Grand Cru to you Sam.

Alan Sprints, Founder/Brewmaster of Hair of the Dog

Sam was the first retailer I met who understood how special Beer could be. He was larger than life and way ahead of his time.

I thought that most people who sold Beer wanted to share with others and help them to discover new things. Years later I understood how wrong I was and how really special Sam was.

He could talk with you for a few minutes and magically pull a Beer out of his cooler that would make your day. I will miss his smiling face, sharp wit and his Beer hat.

Greg Koch, Founder/CEO – Stone Brewing Co. Longtime friend of Sam

Sam Samaniego of San Gabriel’s Stuffed Sandwich fame passed yesterday. Sam cellared beers decades before it was commonly understood. Sam pioneered craft beer decades before it was popular. Sam helped introduce countless thousands to craft beer and its depth…I was one of them.

I remember getting a serious lump in my throat when Sam told me in 1996 that he thought our beers were “pretty good” (a compliment on the highest order from Sam), and he and his wonderful wife Marlene were among the very earliest supporters of Stone. What a pioneer and a leader, but even more so, Sam was simply a “go his own way” type of person. A true one-of-a-kind.

You are loved, respected, and missed Sam. Much love to Marlene at this difficult time.

We encourage you to leave some thoughtful words below in the comment section.


  1. Karen Puerto says

    Many memories of Sam…..New Years Eve’s, Birthday trip (Sam’s) to Rosarita beach…..lots more….sad news.

  2. Steve Zweig says

    I’ve known Sam and Marlene for almost thirty years and have gone on many beer adventures with them, the most memorable a trip to San Francisco for the Barleywine Fest at the Toronado. From what I can remember it was a ton of fun!

    Sam was one of maybe three people responsible for opening my eyes to the wet, wild, wonderful world of brew. I wish I had a nickel for every beer I’ve enjoyed with him.
    He was a true character and by this I mean true to himself. He was the genuine article.

    Hoist one for me, old pal…RIP…I will always value our friendship…Steve Z

  3. says

    Sam was a true inspiration when we first began going to the Stuffed Sandwich. We often joked about why people were still drinking crap when great craft beers was available. We spent many happy hours learning about the many styles, including incredible Belgian beers. Sam will be sorely missed, but his inspiration and hard work will be long remembered in my heart.

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