Friday, June 3, 2011

Craft Beer in Gringo Bars.

It's a bit of a shit photo, but it should give you an idea of the best sort of beer selection you can hope to find in Costa Rica or Panamá, which are probably a half-step ahead of the rest of Central America. A few international lagers, with the Japanese well represented. Sam Adams. Paulaner Hefeweizen and/or Helles. Leffe and/or Duvel. Bottled Guinness "Draft" as well as the mighty Foreign Extra.* North Coast beers are possible but sort of a rare bird. Distributors are notoriously flaky too, so rarely will everything be available at one time.

Most notable would the Libertas and Segua, upper left corner, from Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Co. Drink local, right?

This particular fridge is at Los Amigos in Jaco, right on the Pacific Coast and about an hour from San José (that is, it takes an hour unless weather, landslides or construction work shut the autopista). Popular spot with tourists and expats of all stripes -- families, fishermen, surfers, gamblers and whoremongers. I call it a gringo bar. Gringo bars often have better beer selections, catering to those with the hankering and cash for something besides Imperial. They often have better food as well (that imported U.S. ribeye was a thing of beauty). Just the remedy for a Yank expat tired of lean, chewy, grass-fed Brahman beef.

Another great gringo bar, with probably the best beer list in the country: Time Out Tavern in Escazú. And another: El Estribo in Santa Anna. Sportsmens Lodge in downtown San José. Most of them are also sports bars. And there are plenty more, here and there.

Rumors: I've heard about another guerrilla brewer in Guanacaste, brewing, bottling and selling his own to locals. That's makes at least three of them that I've heard about. They appear to be popping up spontaneously, with little or no communication among them. If nano-brewing falls somewhere between home- and micro-, then I think these guys are in that nebulous space between home- and nano-. Basically: They're homebrewers who are selling it because (a) people like it, and (b) they can get away with it. People want something different, they're willing to pay for it, and the authorities surely have better things to do than come around and ask for permits. Especially from someone brewing just 10 or 15 gallons at a time.

I'm trying to learn more, but what they're doing is not technically legal. My fear is that sharing the details could send the wrong sort of attention their way and shut them down.

Still... There's definitely a story there.

*So far, no true draft Guinness has appeared in Costa Rica, to the best of my knowledge. Might be just a matter of time.


  1. Hi Joe, just to add a few comments about El Salvador, Paulaner is available since Oct 2011 in 4 styles: Hefe Weissbier, Premium Pils, Original Hell and Salvator. Paulaner Oktoberfestbier is planned for Sep 2012, so come over and let's celebrate Oktoberfest with the original! Prost, Greg.

  2. Bien hecho, Greg! Here was can get the Hefe and Hell, and I've seen the Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel as well. But it would be nice to get that Salvator from time to time. Or any decent Doppelbock, really. And the fact that we can even have this conversation says a lot.