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Craft Beer Comes to Costa Rica

By Pinar Istek

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What does beer mean for you? Social lubricant? Something to cool off with on those hot afternoons? Or is it a passion like it is for CS and Stefano from the Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Company (CRCB). Christopher Scott Derrick (CS), of Florida, USA, is the master brewer of the fairly new outfit, while Costa Rican Stefano Marín is the assistant brewer at CRCB.

CS started brewing beer more than 20 years ago. In the US he worked in Colorado, which is known by beer lovers as a craft beer mecca. In Latin America he has brewed in Venezuela, and of course, Costa Rica. As opposed to years of experience that the master brewer has, young assistant brewer, Stefano Marín had a-year-long home brewing experience before he started to work with the company.
Luckily, Nosareños don’t have to drive all the way to San Jóse to taste their two ales (Libertas, the tropical golden ale, and Segua, the red ale). They are available at a few local hotels and bars. While Casa Tucan Restaurante, Marlin Bill’s and Harmony Hotel have already included them in their menu, Mini Super Guiones is currently the only market that offers them. Black Sheep, the Irish Pub of Nosara located in the mountains is also serving it, but the venue is only open for private parties.

Process of Creating Liquid Gold

According to Stan Hieronymus, an author of seven books, including Brew Like a Monk and Brewing With Wheat, “from the time men first domesticated grains about 8000 B.C. they might have brewed beer and inhabitants of various parts of the world certainly were brewing by 3500 B.C. Soon it was the most popular alcoholic beverage in Mesopotamia.”

For those who don’t know about craft beers, the first thing you should know is that these kinds of beers typically have stronger flavors, aromas, and a bigger body than most common beers. Peter Gilman, one of the co-owners of CRCB said “We don't claim that our beer is better than any other brand. They're just different. That's the whole concept of craft beer – the variety of styles and flavors. It's not that one is inherently better than another. It depends on the evening, how you're feeling, and what food you're pairing the beer with. Try Libertas with some locally caught fresh fish or the Segua with some spicy BBQ and you'll know what I'm talking about.”

Costa Rican Craft Brewing Company is currently specializing in two different styles of ale. An ale is defined as “a beer fermented in an open vessel using yeasts that rise to the top of the brew”. The warm fermentation gives a sweeter and fruity taste. CRCB’s hop varieties give the ales a bitter herbal flavor and also act as a preservative to the beer.

CS said they brew seven to eight times a month, yielding an average output. “La Segua and Libertas are completely different beers. They are both ales and they are both fermented with the same yeast but they use different malts and therefore they have different color which is a very big difference,” said Marín.

Marín added that “they (Libertas and Segua) use different hop strains. So the whole profiles of the beers are quite different. Libertas is less bitter than Segua. And it is also a bit less aromatic. Segua has a lot more hops than the Libertas. We say Libertas is light beer, very refreshing. It has some sweetness… It is also a little floral. It is like a refreshing beer for a hot weather. Segua is for the people who want to experience another beer. It is a whole other intensity; you know, more bitter, more aromatic. The color is darker. It is reddish.”

Both of the ales from CRCB are non-pasteurized beers. Pasteurization is the process of heating the food to a certain degree for a while and cooling it down immediately. CS added that “pasteurization will inhibit microbial growth if done in a closed environment.” The process is also supposed to prevent the beer from souring. CS said that because they don’t pasteurize their brews, “it needs to be kept cold”, in every stage, including transportation, storage, and during its sale at venues and stores.

Surfing vs. Brewing
Even though Gilman, who has lived in Nosara for 10 years now, is a big fan of surfing, he had to choose the Central Valley of Costa Rica to start crafting beer, simply for financial reasons. He said “it's a simple matter of demographics and infrastructure so San Jose has the population of beer drinkers that's perfect for us.”

“Surfing has been a big part of my life over the last 20 years,” Gilman said.  And he continued “I've basically given up surfing and my beach lifestyle for this venture. I get out in the water a couple times a month, that's all. But you just have to go with it. You plan things one way and life brings you what it brings you.”

While Gilman thinks that brewing and surfing are two things that can not be compared, he finds a balance between the two: “It's all about lifestyle and the lifestyle of a true surfer cannot be beat. What we've done is given all the surfers (of legal drinking age) the icing on their cake. Now after a perfect evening session in the warm waters of Guiones they can enjoy a cold craft beer and the sunset to end the day... and it doesn't get any better than that.”


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