UPDATED: Go here for the most up to date information on the Beer Festival at Avenida Escazu.
Beer lovers in Costa Rica are no longer limited to the commercial offerings of the Florida Ice & Farm S.A. and expensive imports at the store. On Saturday, April 21st, the first ever Microbrewery and Craft Beer Festival will take place in Avenida Escazu (map), featuring the best Costa Rica has to offer in terms of ale, lager, pilsner, and more.
For many years, the only beer options available to Ticos have come from the Florida Ice & Farm giant brewery in La Ribera de Belen. The company occupies the undisputed beer throne with Cerveza Imperial, an iconic brew that dates back to 1924 and has become an unofficial national symbol. By way of comparison, Imperial is to Costa Rica what Heineken is to the Netherlands and Guinness is to Irish culture.
The beer palates of Ticos, however, have been changing in the last few years. The Imperial pale lager still dominates the beer market in Costa Rica, and Florida Ice has tried to liven up its product catalog with offerings such as Pilsen, the cold-filtered Rock beers, the highly rated Bavaria Dark (a true Schwarzbier), and others. As much as Florida Ice tries to keep up, the new demands of Tico beer lovers call for the taste of craft beers lovingly made by Costa Rican microbreweries.
The Microbreweries of Costa Rica
Those in attendance at the Craft Beer Festival in Avenida Escazu on April 21st will have a chance to get to know the microbreweries and taste their products. The burgeoning field of craft beer brewing is bound to become a very important economic activity in Costa Rica. The local master brewers are well-aware that plying their trade is not just a matter of capturing market share away from Florida Ice. The idea is to craft quality beers and put Costa Rica on the map as a destination for beer tasters.
One important aspect of the brewing process is the choice of ingredients, something that gives the master craft brewers of Costa Rica a chance to shine. By its own admission, Florida Ice resorts to using rice and corn cereals to combine with the malt made with hops imported from countries like Belgium, Canada, France, and Germany. The use of rice for the brewing process dates back to the 1800s, and it was introduced to give beer a lighter and more refreshing taste, as is the case of the Imperial pale lager.
Craft beer master brewers are less likely to use rice, as the Bavarian brewing process calls for the use of barley and wheat to give beer different darker shades and tones. Microbreweries know that their customers have different and higher expectations, and thereby they do not have to maximize their cereal usage with rice to minimize their operating costs. In this sense, microbreweries have more leeway when it comes to developing rich flavors and colors in their brews.
Here are some of the proudly Tico microbreweries that may appear at the Craft Beer Festival. They are united by the Asociación de Cerveceros Artesanales de Costa Rica, the new and fledgling organization that hopes to encompass all aspects of Tico beer culture.
Costa Rica Craft Beer Company
Located in El Tejar de El Guarco in Cartago, the CR Craft Brewing Company has the most extensive product catalog of draft and bottle beers among the Tico microbreweries. Their main products are Libertas Tropical Golden Ale and La Segua Red Ale, but they recently introduced a seasonal Oatmeal Stout just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day at Craic Irish Pub in San Jose. Another recent addition includes a 6 percent alcohol India Pale Ale.
Cerveceria Artesanal de Occidente
Home of the Clandestina San Ramon Brown Ale.
Volcano Brewing Company
Witch’s Rock Pale Ale is the Volcano Brewing Company’s flagship beer that is served on tap at the Lakeview Hotel before a breathtaking view of the Arenal. Malo Gato is their brown ale.
Located in Esterillos, this craft beer maker features two brews: Howler Lager and Howler Ginger Beer.
TreintaYCinco Fabrica Artesanal de Cervezas
Lots of daring and different flavors from this tiny microbrewery:
- Mamacandela a honey dark Porter
- Majadera, an India Pale Ale
- Lora, a Hefeweizen Weissbier
- Maldita Vida, an Irish Red
- Hispanic Ale, a Banana Tropical Ale
La Bodega de Chema
This is not a microbrewery; it is rather ground zero for all craft beer activities in the Central Valley. The store is located in the east end of San Jose, and this is where you can find some of the beverages described above, along with beer paraphernalia and everything you need to know about the state of microbrewery affairs in Costa Rica. Tickets for the Beer Festival can be purchased here as well.
To learn more about Tico beer culture, please read “Life Beyond Imperial“, The Costa Rica’s Star previous article on this subject.