What a difference a year makes! Last year I reported on the burgeoning Craft Beer movement in Costa Rica. I am happy to report that this year that movement is rushing like the famous Pacuare River here. It’s just too bad the beer is not flowing as quickly to keep up with the demand. But they are trying.
Kristie and I just attended (and helped sponsor) the 2nd Annual Costa Ballena Beer Festival. Last year this little event attracted a few hundred people and a small handful of breweries and really opened the eyes of people in the area about what “Cerveza Artesnal” or Craft Beer really is. Even the brewers were surprised by the event. Most of which just sold some kegs to the event but weren’t there to represent their brand. This year all that changed.
The organizers changed the venue to be more accessible to the public , more open to both beer and food vendors and provide more room to just hang out and listen to music and enjoy great beer. They were rewarded and the attendees were rewarded with a truly great beer tasting event. And I have attended many of these events in my day. Over 600 attendees from all over Costa Rica came and over 16 brewers including one from the USA.
The brewers attended and gladly poured their beers and shared their stories with the happy throng thirsty for beer with some flavor and the chance to talk about a subject they dearly love. It was an odd mix of brewers. There were a couple of larger breweries like TreintaYCinco that had multiple offerings and have a bit of a national presence. There were also a few self-proclaimed pico brewers that are just working hard out of 5 and 12 gallon batches and selling to their neighbors and clients. One of the brewers/vendors has opened a store in San Jose to sell all the supplies needed for brewing your own beer and even teach classes on how to make beer. They also have a store packed with great beers from around the world. Too bad for us it is over a 3 hour drive there.
But it sure did stimulate the juices in us to start brewing again.
As we perused the beers and talked to the brewers and talked to many in the crowd from all over the country, we found the demand FAR outweighs the capacity for making beer. Who could have thought that you can’t make enough craft beer in an entire country full of expats and tourists and locals? Where are all you Oregonians and Michiganders with beards? Costa Rica needs you! Forget about if you can afford an early retirement and what furniture you want to ship in your container to which Central American country, ship some beer making equipment to Costa Rica and have a working retirement doing something you love.
Wait, how did a story about beer turn into a retirement story? Maybe I am just being selfish. We need more brewers down here! I guess we have to ship our brewing supplies down here or go buy some from the new brewing supply stores so we can do it ourselves. Luckily Costa Rica has a pretty much endless supply of fresh, clean water. And now that you can get ingredients in bulk…
Ok, back to the beer. As I said earlier, there was even a brewer from Eureka, California at the event. They brought about 8 different beers but only in bottles. It was a nice testament to the quality of the beer that is produced here in Costa Rica by mostly Costa Rican (Tico) brewers. The American beer was very good as we would expect, their stout was delicious. But while most of the local brewers didn’t have the variety provided, the quality was just as good or better that the “big guys”. We enjoyed beer brewed with local spices, herbs and fruits as well as classic ales and pilsners. Lagers are tough here because it is so warm, but I guess I will live. Now if they could just ramp up production. I think it was eye opening for them to see such a beer’centric crowd gathered together in one place. They really enjoyed telling their stories about how they got started and why their beer is special to them. One even has an artesian well on the property that produces some of the finest water in the entire country. Good enough reason for me to start a brewery.
All this talk about the little guy and one of the end results is that the brewery in California now has a new outlet for their beer. They are ramping up production and have taken and delivered orders to the Uvita and Dominical area. The local breweries just can’t keep up and they just can’t figure out a good distribution system. Luckily for us, our favorite watering hole has a good supply and we can even order through them. It’s good to be a beer hound.