Last year, party maven Pablo Formal organized a massive Oktoberfest at Avenida Escazú. He wanted to accommodate singles, couples, families, and groups. He wanted all of Costa Rica’s breweries to showcase their wares. And he wanted people to actually show up.
Before the doors even opened, Formal’s company, NuShark Media, had already sold 750 tickets.
One year later, in preparation for the 2014 Oktoberfest this weekend, NuShark has sold more than 2,000 tickets. He expects a full 5,000 guests over the course of the 14-hour celebration.
“People are realizing, this year more than last year, that it’s a quality event,” Formal told The Tico Times during a recent chat. “They know it’ll be a good experience, there will be good security, and the setup is going to be huge.”
Last year’s event might already have qualified as huge, but this Oktoberfest will be even bigger: Formal is moving operations from the Avenida Escazú shopping area to the Pedregal Event Center in Belén, one of the largest venues in Costa Rica.
While Oktoberfest began as a tiny regional fair in the Bavarian city of Munich, the annual harvest festival has become an international sensation, representing traditional German culture, music, beer, and bratwurst. (Lederhosen and polka are also strongly encouraged.) While smaller, community-based Oktoberfests have been celebrated in Costa Rica for years, Formal’s high-octane version is particularly geared toward beer aficianados: Guests can select from 25 available beers, and six brand-new craft beers will make their debut at Pedregal. Stiefel Pub, a favorite San José haunt, has brewed 200 liters of its own beer specifically for the event, with no plans to ever replicate the recipe.
“Once it’s done, it’s done,” said Formal of the Stiefel brew. “Keep the memories.”
Unlike last year’s Oktoberfest, this event will unfold beneath a single long tent, rather than a labyrinthine series of smaller tents. Pedregal also boasts ample parking, and a fleet of available taxis will ferry revelers safely back to San José.
The Costa Rican craft beer movement has exploded in recent years, and Formal is extremely pleased with its evolution. Because last year’s Oktoberfest was the first NuShark had organized, Formal feels that his company has earned its street cred.
“People are more aware of what they’re consuming,” said Formal. “There are also craft foods now – more organic, more natural. It’s a more romantic thing. People try to guess what it’s made of. ‘This is watermelon, this is made of coffee.’ Because of that, we’re going to have craft beers that are about the same price as regular beers.” (Most pours will cost about ₡2,000, or $4).
“I think we’ve made a name for ourselves,” Formal added. “It was much, much easier to sell the event this year. I think that people who didn’t believe in the first event are now [committed]. And the people who took the risk with us and joined in – there were no questions asked. They just asked, ‘Where’s my space?’ ‘How much [beer] can I bring?’”
Oktoberfest takes place Oct. 11 at Pedregal Event Center, Belén. 11 a.m. – 1 a.m. ₡9,000-15,000 ($18-30). Info: Event Facebook page.