Costa Rican craft beer just wasn't a thing during my first visit nearly 15 years ago. That's changed, with a wide variety of breweries stretching beyond the ubiquitous Imperial lager. But how good is Costa Rican craft beer?
Well, most of it is good enough to finish. But none of it is good enough to make Costa Rica a beer destination. For now, Curitiba, Brazil, retains its rank as my Latin American beer capitol. Of course, I was in a generous and festive mood during my visit. So I probably added Â¾ of a star to every Untappd review. And I found that stouts were the best of the Costa Rican craft beer I tried. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's take a step back to talk about the different brews and places where we enjoyed them.
I was particularly excited about Stiefel. It was close to our hotel, too. It's more of a locals’ sort of place. Laid back with decent food (casados) and a good selection of Costa Rican beers. The beer list rotates. The staff is patient with those of us who are kind of crappy at speaking Spanish.
I was shocked to see that they had a mead on tap – not a hard-hitting Game of Thrones sort of offering, but a nice sparkling beverage that tasted more like a radler or shandy.
We had this one pegged as the pioneering local trying hard to be the Big Thing. First the good stuff: It's such a cool building – a great place to hang out. The extensive craft beer menu set my expectations high.
But when they’re out of most of the selections that interested me the most, that’s kind of a letdown. The server didn’t seemed to know his stuff beer-wise (he didn’t realize that half pints were on the menu, tried to get me to order fruit beers after the IPAs I wanted were out).
On the other hand, the food was solid: bacon-wrapped, chorizo-stuffed dates for the wife and me, chicken fingers and fries for the little person. So go for the food and the atmosphere … and hope they sort their beer problems out before your visit.
This place killed â€˜em all like a Metallica album â€¦ by far my favorite Costa Rican craft beer bar that we found in San Jose. The tap list is extensive and weighted heavily toward regional craft labels. It also encompasses a wide variety of styles from stout to mead. The tacos are also delicious, and they play a decent variety of music at a low enough volume to allow you to chat with your drinking companions.
And hey, there’s a place to grab ice cream next door. A perfect place for craft beer! They also have some foreign selections.
We also visited a place calledÂ Lupulus Beer Shop. We didn’t have anything special there. It has dark, relaxed environment that might go better with patrons that don’t have a squirmy 3-year-old with them.
OK, now onto a few of the specific beers. I'm not going to list them all – just the standouts. If you want to know more, you can also visit my Untappd profile.
A Sampling of Costa Rican Craft Beer
Puerto Viejo Stout (Costa Rica Beer Factory)
More on the bitter dark chocolate side, which I prefer. Heavy body to it for its percentage.
Talingo Stout (Casa Bruja Brewing Company)
Best Costa Rican stout I’ve had. Sweet and viscous.
Barba Peluda (Primate)
A solid stout with plenty of chocolate.
None of these will make me book a ticket back to San Jose for more Costa Rican craft beer. But it's nice to know that it's not all lightweight lagers now. Maybe next time, I'll be able to get a hold of a nice hazy IPA. And maybe some of those awesome spices that grow in Costa Rica will find their way into the beers – I'm particularly thinking that cinnamon could be used to good effect.
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