Cooking and eating through a new culture

Costa Rica’s Craft Brewery

You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.
-Frank Zappa

While I was back stateside, I drank beer every day. Now, I know that sounds a tad excessive, but it wasn’t….really, you gotta know my family. Most days, it was just one and I was very particular about which one it would be. This was about quality, not quantity and I carefully choose my brew. Then again consider my selection:

Divine US beer selection

Other days, I was not so restrained. I was asked a number of times what I missed the most and I would tick off the usual friends, family, etc…but deep down, what I truly ached for, was good beer.

For the most part, Ticos drink only two beers: Imperial and Pilsen. Neither beers live up to their namesake and both of which, I consider to be swill, but lets face it, Latin America is not known for beer (paradise does have its limits). The import selection is dinky and woefully overpriced. Beer was even a factor Rafa and I discussed before moving down and he assured me my sacrifice would not be in vain. We had both brewed our own beer in the past and as soon as we got settled, we would start-up again. Did I mention that my kitchen is only drawn on bare walls?

My first weekend back found us in Cartago on errands. Now, we knew about Costa Rica’s Craft Brew and had sampled their products….extensively. Since we were in the vicinity, we decided to pop in.

Now, I have toured brewerys like some people hit winerys. I have seen everything from simple pole barns to historic brick brownstones and I must say….CRCB is an impressive operation. Unannounced and basically closed to the public, we were greeted by the Brew Master himself, Chris Derrick. I don’t know whether it was our pie-eyed enthusiasm or the palpable pride Chris took in his operation, but he offered us a lovely tour.

I am a bit of a social misfit in the sense that it is nearly impossible for me to fake interest. If I don’t find someone engaging within 30 seconds, I move on. I refuse to suffer fools but I could have stayed at the brewery and listened to Chris all day. His passion for the CRCB and Costa Rica was infectious. I was throughly impressed at how every aspect of the business involved Costa Rica. This was not some haphazard gringo operation planted in a foreign country but a well though out, Tico involved business. From the logo, to the names of the two main brews, to the pride in the craft itself; I was in awe.

At this time CRCB offers two beers: Libertas, a tropical golden ale, and Segua, a red ale. Libertas is an excellent ale with rich complex flavors. It’s described as “refreshing”…yeah, refreshing alternative from the rest of the crap that is offered…but I would say it is medium bodied beer, not necessarily light and refreshing but comfortable and palatable. Very easy to drink…much to my demise.

Segua Red Ale is named after the Tico legend of La Segua (The Mare), a gorgeous woman who goes after drunk and unfaithful men. She would lure drunk male travellers by asking for a ride on their horse along the dark, deserted colonial roads of Cartago. Once up in the saddle, her face would turn into a hideous horse skull with flaming red eyes and terrible teeth! And this beer lives up to its name. It seduces you with a beautiful red gold color and nice frothy head pour. The hops on the nose were mild but aromatic, a nice spicy and floral arrangement. Then there is a burst of sweet malt, followed by a light hop snap. The finish is strong and fades nicely into a hoppy fruitiness. This beer can certainly sneak up on you and it has a kick!

Our first introduction to CRCB was their stout, specially made for St. Patrick’s Day. Chris admits he was reluctant to brew a stout since the company was so new and still unestablished, but it was a blessing, at least for us. I think Rafa and I drank the majority of the small batch they brewed. If you do the real tours, scheduled on their Facebook page, you will also be offered a sampling of new brews and experimental batches. Quite nice. Chris also confided that a new IPA will be coming out shortly. The tasting confirmed that THIS will be my new beach beer here.

CRCB and myself have been operating in Costa Rica for about the same amount of time. Do yourself a favor; if you find yourself in Cartago, around Irazu, or coming back from Orosi, make this a destination too. Gringo or Tico, you will find the place inspiring and the beer delicious.  CRCB is expanding into local drinking establishment found on their Facebook page, but if you want to take some home, you need to stop in personally. Sorry my Northern kin, they do not export…you will just have to come visit. They have big shoes to fill but after our visit, I am confident in their success.



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