By Hops McAle
Is there anything better than a spending a warm Saturday afternoon sipping on a myriad of microbrews with friends? The answer to that question, in the humble opinion of Hops McAle, is no.
So when granted the opportunity to attend the second annual Craft Beer Festival at Avenida Escazú, Hops and his misfit clan of drinking mates arrived in hopes of slaking their collective thirst on the best microbrews offered in Costa Rica. They did not leave disappointed. Nor did they leave with all facilities intact. Though one friend actually left with an adopted baby goat. I wish I was kidding, for the goat’s sake.
Beginning at 11 a.m., the festival gates opened and patrons poured into the tented beer garden erected in the back parking lot of Avenida Escazú. Beneath the tents surrounding the perimeter of the festival, brewers from across the country served up their tastiest microbrews to hundreds of beer enthusiasts equipped with small sampling glasses and stomachs ready for the original recipes of hops, barley and yeast. Mmmm, yeast.
By the looks of things at the festival, which included presentations and lessons on how to make your own homebrews, Costa Rica’s burgeoning craft beer culture has officially arrived.
“Last year was a great time, though this year there is so much more variety and so many more beers available,” said Heredia resident Matthew Beerett, who was spotted around 6 p.m. alone in the Avenida Escazú food court devouring a plate of fried chicken from Popeye’s, or Pop-ehh-yes, as pronounced in Spanish. “It’s awesome to see the continued growth of good beer in this country.”
Good beer flowed liked a freestyle rapper at Avenida Escazú on Saturday, as local microbrewers, most of whom are yet to sell their brews commercially, gave revelers a sample of their concocted libations. The offerings were diverse in presentation and flavor, ranging from a coffee-based porter produced by Cervecería Pezuña Negra, to a honey wine served up by the Alajuela-based Costa Rica Meadery.
“We are all part of a growing beer community in Costa Rica,” said Josemaría Mora, who runs the La Bodega de Chema, a beer vendor that sells national microbrews in the eastern San José neighborhood of Los Yoses. “There are more and more people all over the country brewing their own beers. This is their opportunity to showcase what they created.”
Ticketed beer enthusiasts were given samples of each of the 22 brews on tap and were required to show their passport, a small booklet with descriptions of the beers served, at each brewer’s station.
Working through the 22 tastings proved more challenging than some anticipated. While all beverages were tasty and distinct, the 22-station menu staggered even the strongest of beer aficionados. After the eighth sample, some of the mates were noted as having heightened voice and fun levels. By round 14, one of the crew had gone missing while another pestered the bagpiper to for a chance to play a jig. When our passports were finally expired around 7 p.m., one amigo was spotted entering a cab with an adopted baby goat. And a t-shirt.
And the Winner is?
Much conversation among attendees debated their favorite beers of the day. All had different takes on what pleasured their palate, though several people surveyed during the day mentioned the Zaguate IPA, produced by Cervecería Perro Vida, Oso’s Honey Mango Brown Ale, brewed Bribri Springs Brewery in Puerto Viejo, and Jack Daniel’s Old Ale, a beer with a subtle whisky flavor, made by the TicoBirra Homebrew Shop.
The event was anchored and organized by the Club de Cerveceros Artesanalas de Costa Rica, a nonprofit organization made up of beer enthusiasts and homebrewers, in conjunction with restaurant Product-C. Also in attendance was the grandaddy of the craft beer movement, Costa Rica Craft Brewing, which handed out samples of its two flagship brews, Libertas Tropical Golden Ale and Segua Red Ale, as well as their Oatmeal Stout and Barleywine. Costa Rica’s other increasingly popular microbrewer, the Tilarán-based Volcano Brewing Company, was also doling out savory samplings of their Witch’s Rock American Pale Ale and Gato Malo Nut Brown Ale.
If it were required to pick a favorite brew or winner, it seems the obvious choice would be those in attendance.
“Growing up in Costa Rica, we’ve always been used to the same beers and flavors,” said Veronica Soto, who successfully completed the entire menu of beers. “It’s so nice to finally see the arrival of new, good beers here. Hopefully in the future most of these brews will be sold all over the country.”
The only loser? Lola, the adopted goat.