Good Beer Hunting

Episode 39 — Costa Rica's Craft Brewers

Episode 39 — Costa Rica's Craft Brewers

- Mick Guttierez of Perro Vida Cerveza Artesenal
- Ignacio Castro Cortiñas of Treintaycinco Fabrica de Cervezas
- Chef Eric Saenz of El Gaff Gastropub
- Alonso Brenes of Domingo 7 Cerveza Artesanal
- Gustavo Arroyo of El Buho Cervecería Artesanal
- Manuel Donarte of Café del Barista

We were in Costa Rica with Tristan Coulter of Gaslight Coffee Roasters in Chicago, and Andres Araya of 5 Rabbit Brewery. We were there to see about some coffee. Tristan and Andres are making Yodo con Leche again, their imperial porter blended with cold brew and con leche, and this year they wanted to go to the source. I was fresh off of hosting my Uppers & Downers coffee beer festival, so this little tagalong seemed perfectly timed. We climbed high into the mountains, as high as 1,900 meters at one point, pulled fresh cherries off the coffee trees, and tasted through a myriad of impressive coffees in search of the beans for Yodo. 

Along the way, we met home brewers, nano-brewers, and macro brewers around the city of San Jose, and some far out in the countryside who are working to get Costa Rica’s craft brewing scene off the ground. It’s very much in its infancy with only a couple of legitimate brewers producing any meaningful amount of volume. It’s a lot like the US 30 or 40 years ago as these men and women struggle to produce a quality, consistent beer, and then sell that beer into a monopolized distribution and retail system to a customer that doesn’t know what to think of it. But there’s another important factor in Costa Rican craft beer that the US didn’t have in the 70s, namely, the US itself. Costa Rican’s are heavily influenced by what’s happening in the US right now. They see the styles we’re producing, the recipes, the beer flavors, and they’re working to get their hands on those things every chance they get. And that means that Cost Rican craft beer is in the earliest stages of Ken Grossman’s Pale Ale, combined with the 3rd wave of brewing ambitions. It’s a bizarre confluence of factors. 

Most of the beers I had in Costa Rica that week were far off style, begging for fresh ingredients, and simply not fairing well in a hot climate with almost zero refrigerated infrastructure in distribution or even retail. But whatever they lack in ingredients, and infrastructure, these men and women make up for in ambition.