A trip to Costa Rica never disappoints. Whether you’re coming for extreme adventurism, beach-side relaxation, or even a quick business trip, your time in this small Central American country will be filled with excitement and wonder. The cities are well-developed and modern, the tourism industry is top-notch, and the extreme diversity in geography and biodiversity is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. After a long day of exploring the country, you’ll be ready to settle down in a hammock to enjoy the vivid sunset. You’ll find the perfect spot, kick off your shoes, and reach for… a light, nondescript lager.
It’s true, the common beers of Costa Rica leave something to be desired. Currently, the population still prefers to drink light American Lagers over any other style of beer, and unless you’re in a specialty bar, there’s a good chance you won’t have any other options. This preference, in a way, makes perfect sense. Costa Rica is a hot, tropical country, and after a long day, an ice-cold lager with a squirt of lime can be the perfect way to cool off and relax. For the beer connoisseurs, however, this won’t be enough. Fear not, the tide is changing. Even just 5 years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a microbrewery in Costa Rica, but the last years have brought considerable change. Costa Rica is now producing its own high-quality, artesanal microbrews, and their style is truly one of a kind. You’ll need to put a bit of research into you night time bar choices, but tasting some of these local flavors will be well worth the work.
Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co.
Located in San Jose, Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co. is the first operational microbrewery in the country, and has proven to be very successful. It’s not only the first regional brewery, it’s also the most accessible. No need to visit the brewery in person, you’ll find their bottled product in beer-lovers restaurants and bars around the country. Founded in October of 2010, Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co. now has multiple products, seasonal beers, and all the apparel a brewery-tour enthusiast would ever need.
When trying your first flight, be sure to ask for a sample of the famous Segua Red Ale (Irish Red, 5%). The caramel notes and slight hops will be combined with a fresher taste, making it both flavorful and perfect for the after-hike cool down. Make sure you also ask if they have any seasonal beers on tap, as their Oatmeal Stout and Belgian Tripel have started to make a name for themselves in Costa Rican beer circles.
This tiny brewery, occupying a small home in the Monteverde region, will be a pleasant surprise. Their facilities are quite literally micro, but they still manage to produce enough beers to stock the fridges of nearby restaurants and small cafeteria-style cafes. You’ll have a hard time finding this company online, and finding the brewery in person might be impossible, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you might run into a bottle or two of their finest product.
When tasting Adamá, you should aim for the Café Stout (Stout, 7.5%). The Costa Rican coffee flavor and slight hint of smokiness will be just what you need after a long hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forests. The Amber Ale and IPA are other crowd pleasers, but don’t expect quite as much bitterness from the IPA as you would experience in a North American brewery.
Lake Arenal Brewery
This is a one-stop destination. Lake Arenal Brewery is a restaurant, brewery, and hotel, all rolled into one. Staying a night on-premise would be the trip of a lifetime, with views of Arenal Volcano that can only be improved by the frosty beer in your hand, but unfortunately not everyone can make it there. Luckily, this small hotel brewery produces enough to sell their products in bars around the country. Formally called Volcano Brewing Company, this small company only produces two beers, but both are highly rated among local enthusiasts.
The Paradise Pale (American Pale Ale, 5.0%) is a hoppy, citrusy combination that goes perfectly with a tropical climate. The Brown Ale has the iconic sweet, nutty flavor of any brown ale, but truly makes its mark with a slight spicy kick at the end. Both beers are worth traveling for.
Translated to thirty-five, Treintaycinco is a small brewery with a rather impressive beer list by any standards. If at all possible, a visit to their brewery and a tour of the facilities would be an amazing way to spend your afternoon. If not, google the nearest bar selling their products and hunker down for a long post-dinner chat or to catch an afternoon soccer game, you’re not going to be leaving any time soon.
They have many to choose from, but at some point, you’re going to want to try the Maldita Vida (Barley Wine, 9.8%). You may not be a fan of this style, but the Maldita Vida has a strong, smooth, and purely Costa Rican taste that you’ll want to experience. After that, go for the Mama Candela (Sweet Stout, 7.8%) or the Lora (Belgium, 8%). By the time you’re done trying all your Trientaycinco brews, you’re going to want to get a taxi home, because these strong beers will definitely hit you.
Where to Find Them
Most of the microbreweries listed above offer facility tours, in-house bars, and even restaurant and lodging options. They’re not always convenient to visit, however, so you’ll need to search for a nearby vendor. It can be difficult to find information online when searching for a specific beer, so you may want to ask your hotel receptionist for any recommendations for pubs or beer-enthusiast bars.
If you find yourself in San Jose, don’t leave the city without a couple hours dedicated to Stiefel Pub. They’ll have about a dozen craft beers on tap, and even more bottled option. As far as a beer list, this is your best bet for a long and comprehensive menu. When in smaller cities and beach towns, look for any restaurant advertising itself as a pub. This means they’re more likely to understand the modern beer scene and know what you’re looking for. And when all else fails, try using an online search engine or mapping program to find the nearest brew.