Sunday, June 14, 2015

Costa Rica Tap House - Craft Beer & BBQ

Full Disclosure: I know the guy who runs the place, not well- but I know him. HOWEVER, one of my favorite places on the West Side of San Jose (Escazu/Santa Ana) is Costa Rica's Tap House.

One year ago... There was no tap house. There was no barbecue. Happy Birthday to the Tap House Costa Rica.

The Beer

As craft beer continues to take hold of Costa Rica, more and more places are offering some craft options. Although, few have really been able to REALLY offer it all. With almost 20 beers on tap, and plenty more in bottles, the Tap House, in Santa Ana, is one of the best recreations of the North American model. The surprisingly knowledgeable staff will guide you through the process of selecting a beer that will suit your tastes. 

The Food

Then we have the food... oh man, the food is great; pulled pork, brisket, tacos, or, my favorite, enchiladas ... Its all good and some of it is down right great. If you like meat, you will like this place. Nothing more needs to be said.  (Needless to say, my beer loving vegetarian friends, missed the obligated visit to this place)

The Place

It had the vibe of a college pub. Spotless, sports on the big screens, a big bar, and outdoor seating make this a relaxing place rain or shine, night or day. As I mentioned, the staff is solid for anywhere, especially Costa Rica. I should point out this place usually has a respectable collection of Bourbon available.


Lots of beer, great staff, great food. Excellent spot.

Contact info:
Phone: +506 4702 1534
Location: 100mt Este de Bacchus, Plaza 5 de Marzo. Santa Ana, Costa Rica

Read and Brew: The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer:

I wanted to take a moment to talk about a book, and blog, that I really enjoy. Ron Pattinson is a British ex-pat who live in Holland and has a quirky fascination with the history of beer. His writing style is humorous and extremely informative. His blog, called Shut Up about Barclay Perkins, full of short posts that easy to digest that talk about everything from public drunkenness to style evolution.

The blog is so massive that it can be a little daunting to navigate, but if there is nearly any historic topic of beer (mainly British, but many others), you would be able to find ample reading and a unique perspective. Much of the information that he provides is either not available anywhere else, or was taken from his site. There is a great deal of information that helps give perspective on the "why" things may have happened. Additionally, he throws in the occasional recipe.

The Book

About little over a year ago, he published a book (not his first book, but the first one I wanted to buy) called, The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer: Rediscovered Recipes for Classic Brews Dating from 1800 to 1965.

The books is sold in a binder, and is beautifully produced. It covers a variety of styles and subjects. He gives a simple overview of ingredients, process, history, and evolution of some of the most popular styles. Additionally he follows up each section with a variety of historical recipes, based on original brew logs, and converted to 5 gallon batch recipes with currently available ingredients.

For a more experienced home brewer, the book is great to flip through when you are developing a new recipe or if you want to try something "old." For people just getting into the hobby, it is a great easy and quick read that will reconfirm a lot of the things you already knew, but also give you some information or ideas that are new.

I have loaded the book out to several friends that are getting into the hobby, and they have either photocopied (that's legal in Costa Rica if it is for education) it, or bought it.


If you like beer, especially it's history, then you should defiantly get you know Ron Pattinson, read his blog Shut Up about Barclay Perkins, and buy his book The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer: Rediscovered Recipes for Classic Brews Dating from 1800 to 1965.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Dream Proposal For Costa Rican Artisan Beer

Homebrewing can be expensive in Costa Rica

A several months ago, I met a really nice kid who was just getting into brewing. He said that he has been wanting to get into brewing for almost a year, but it has been financially difficult for him to break into the hobby. He and another friend has just bought their first kit together and were going to brew their first 3 gallon batch. I gave them a few tips, and some support- but it reminded me of how quickly the equipment costs added up for me.

One thing to keep in mind about Costa Rica is that it is a very expensive country to live in (unless you want to live in a shack and eat only rice and beans, however the rice and the beans are still cheaper in any US grocery). Moreover, luxury items (luxury defined here as simply as inessentials) are usually shipped in and taxed. Brewing equipment, for example, generally costs about twice as much as the US. Additionally, certain ingredients carry that same multiplier (luckily not all).

So a simple single bucket kit is going to cost you about $100. You know you need another bucket... so that is $130. Now add a kit ($27) and maybe and once of hops ($4) to just liven it up a little and given that you can do this using your own kitchen and using 'found' bottles, you are looking at a buck sixty just to get 30 extract beers. As I mentioned, luckily we have very competitive prices on Patagonia grains (which are very good), however moving up to all grain brews obviously has some more equipment costs.

Could we be missing out on the next big thing

This got me thinking- how could someone with limited resources break into a hobby like this? And how could they go down the path of upgrading their equipment? For many people, it just might be too hard, and that is really unfortunate; I mean the next Steven Dresler could be right here in Costa Rica, but we may never know it. It's not like

Brewing, as many of us know, is fun and rewarding hobby. It mixes creativity, science, and tradition. For the most part, I think a lot of us beer drinkers, and especially brewers, appreciate the variety and diversity. Even a bad beer, could have something to trigger an idea or direction for another brewer.

Commercial breweries have to be concerned about their bottom line, and although they are probably always trying new things very few actually make it out of the breweries laboratory into out hands.

Homebrewers live for reviews

In addition, most of us that brew probably agree one of the greatest parts of being a homebrewer is actually having people enjoy your beer. However there are costs, bottle recovery, and just giving beer away is not always prudent.

My girl-friend and I have talked about developing a local beer exchange site that would allow homebrewers to set up trades and facilitate reviews (because that is another thing that we want) and better connect the community, but even though it sounds easy on the front end, to do it right would take some significant time which we don't really have right now. However even having that site available would change the dream.

Homebrewers are artisans

There are many traditional artisans who create beautiful pieces here that are sold on the streets and beaches. Additionally there probably more food artisans that sell baked goods, street food, and other traditional foods throughout the country. I highly doubt that either of those groups are registered or paying taxes- but it is tolerated and embraced. Who can deny that a trip to Puntarenas isn't complete without a vigoron?

The Idea

So here is it is... Let's truly embrace the artisan culture of brewing, and allow homebrewers to become artists who do their best, and try to share their best for a a little compensation.

For example, we would be to separate artisan brewers (who want to sell their beer) into 2 groups. Nano-Artisan (A group) and Micro-Artisan (B group).

Max Production/batch
Max Production/year
Legal Requirements
Tax Requirements
Artisan Brewery A 20 gallons 50 Barrels  Registration Only $100 Annual Fee
Artisan Brewery B 1 Barrel 100 Barrels  Registration Only $500 Annual Fee

For those that are not aware 50 barrels is like 13,000 to 15,000 bottles of beer a year. So even someone maxing out the B group would only be producing 30,000 beers a year.

Yearly registration would be necessary for both groups in the form of a simple form and a registration fee. I was thinking the Culture arm of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud would be great for this, but I am sure Hacienda would want to dip their fingers in the mix.

Uncontrolled alcohol production! What about the kids!?

Before you talking about the "children" and the risk of easing their access to craft beer; those of us that brew know that it would be hard to sell a beer for a colon cheaper than your average local lager; so right off the bat the price would be an immediate deterrent for most underagers.

But, I don't think that kids wanting alcohol here is an issue (it might be a problem, but it's not an issue because if they want it, they get it). Obviously it would still be illegal for any sales to minors, however I really think that is far from an issue.

Create a bigger community and better beer

This would really allow for the community to grow- this would allow for many people that can not afford it, to afford it, and it would create so much more diversity in the options available to the beer drinker.

Additionally, this would allow for homebrewers who fantasize about the idea of going pro to start slow, get REAL feedback on their brews and create a following. Bar serving anticipated beers will be able to drive additional

I realize the professional craft brewing companies may not like the idea, but hey, didn't the macro here initially feel the same way. Any true craft brewing company needs to support the movement at all levels, or they have missed the point.

Ok, I admit it- its just for me- I want to drink more beer

As an ale lover I would love to try more experimental beers on a regular basis. Hell, if I put a beer out there I would include the recipe hoping that someone with a nicer set up could brew it better.

Ok, done dreaming for now...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Costa Rica has Changed.... Beer is Here

Here is a old post of mine from another blog that I rarely write in and but should more:

I Miss A Good Pint Of Beer

This was written over seven years ago... I never did follow it up with another article talking about the variety of pilsners that monopolized the Costa Rican market.

Since that point;
3 Floyds is no longer a random brewery; they are actually one of the top ones in the USA (ironically, the are so fucking rude that if I was to sit-down and ask the barman to guide me through the beer menu I would just be blown off and given another few minutes to make my selection).
BEER has arrived in Costa Rica, and I am a happy man.

This weekend,is the 4th annual Artisen Beer Festival in Costa Rica and will be the biggest and best one yet. I cant wait.

I want to thank the guys that have made all this happen... Luis and David (and their staff) from TicoBirra, Chema from La Bodega de Chema, Peter and his team at Craft, PerroVida, 35, Tap House, El Gaff, Craic, and so many others.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Craft Beer Shops/Tiendas de Cerveza in Costa Rica


Although it is a little early to actually write about it in depth, but I wanted to bring it up... As part of the Beer Revolution in Costa Rica, the beer stores popping up. La Bodega de Chema has offered carry our for years, in fact,that is the first place I got a trientaycinco brew. Additionally, I know there are a couple of others out there, and a couple on deck (including my friends at TicoBirra).

From my perspective, I think that this will be a very successful endeavor as it expands. The market is still emerging here in Costa Rica, and if history repeats itself we should run parallel to the US for the most part. So the growth potential is there. Couple that with the success of wine and wine shops in Costa Rica, and I think we have a winner. As a drinker, this is great news.

The biggest issue will be variety. Currently there are probably not enough local brews to keep people coming back on a weekly basis, and importation on Craft beers could prove tiresome because my understanding of the law is that each type/style by brand needs to be approved/licensed by the health ministry and probably other bureaucratic entities (I have no detailed information on this, it is what I have been told). That being said, I can't wait to fill my growler up from time to time, and peruse the shelves for whatever else makes it way in.

So here is my dream:
In a perfect Costa Rica: Importation of Craft Beer would need approval only by Brewery; meaning, you need documentation and health certification by brewery brand, and you would be allowed to import any style that they make. That would allow for the occasional introduction of small batch, seasonal, and mix and match pallets etc to land here in CR.

We need some lobbying power.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Costa Rica's Craft Beer Festival - Festival Cerveza Artesanal de Costa Rica

Several months back we had the third running of the Costa Rican Craft Beer Festival (in Spanish: Festival Cerveza Artesanal) (fb).  As I generally avoid crowds, and places that make it difficult to get a drink, I had not attended in previous year. Curiosity, however, got that better of me and I was very interested in seeing my fellow beer lovers (and makers) in action.

The event had a cost of about $30 which gives you a branded tasting glass, a beer passport, the 20 tickets for 4 oz tasters; very fair (especially for CR). ...the passport got beer-stained, I lost my glass (at the event), but used all of my and my girlfriends tickets.

I had planned on being there right when it opened, but due to a late night bender, I was moving a little slow that morning. We had some Straw-linis to get me over the hump and headed out. Our group arrived about an hour after the event started. I was glad we got there when we did though- every hour it got more packed and hotter.

The San Jose's Local Home Brew Stores, Tico Birra and La Bodega de Chema,were the first two spots we hit. They were demonstrating the beer making process, and showing off their products. They both offered a brew of their own.

After that we made out way through the brewers- most of which were totally new to me because of their location (the beach, which I never go to) or because of their "pre-permission-to-sell" status. It was really great was seeing so many people brewing beer. A couple gastro-pubs represented themselves there as well- the event defiantly has the community angle covered.

There were a couple great beers, many good ones, as well as some iffy ones, but overall there was some solid stuff and you defiantly saw people passionate about what they were doing.

The guys PerroVida (fb), who I had for the first time at the Tico St Patrick's event a couple months earlier (that is a whole other story), offered a few different styles but focus on IPAs. They use rain forest water and brew in the middle of the jungle (literally).

Their standout for me was the Back IPA (Mastiff); a dark coffee flavor supplemented by a hearty bitter and a rich aftertaste.  Many months later I was at a spiking course and sat by the owner- super cool guy.

Treintaycinco (fb) had a great selection and a good vibe going around their area. Their name, 35, is the code in CR used by the police when someone is nuts. These guys are brewing some solid beer and lots of it: like 5 styles.

35 are doing it, what I like to call, US Style with that cool mystique in addition to the hand-drawn label designs, unique names, and of course good beer. Check out their website and you will see what I mean.

Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Company (fb), a.k.a Craft, had the most polished area by far. They also sported a few new beers that I had not tasted before. They had set up a sort of beer lounge, and had a few "photo" opportunities (excellent customer engagement). The area was packed and the beer was flowing.

This was towards the end so my taste buds were zapped and my smile was big. However, I know I enjoyed their beer. I think they had a barley wine that stole my remaining 6 tickets...

A real standout, that was also a hit with the ladies in our group, was a coconut porter by Tatu Brew. The coconut was slightly more than a hint, but  was not overdone. It offered a nice aroma and favor adjustment  (and I am not a huge fan of coconut). It was just interesting and well done.

Although the crowds will be even worse next year- I will defiantly attend. It was great, and I had a blast.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Costa Rica's Stiefel Pub

When I first got to Costa Rica the only microbrewery I could find was K&S, and they had a brewpub to match. As I have said before, the product was ok, but not really what I was looking for.

Over the past few years thigns have began to change. Its been cool that the Craft Beer guys have aggressively put their beer (draft and bottles) in a bunch of spots, however there are a growing handful of places that have based their business around the micro-brew thing. Stiefel is one of these places.

Stiefel Pub boasts an excellent draft beer selection, good food, and an eclectic vibe. 

The beer is available in a bunch of different glasses and sizes including their namesake 'boot.' I was impressed with the variety they carried on tap, and I was pleased that the waitress offered us the sampler; 4 1/2 beers on a paddle with the names listed.

She did a great job of letting us know what was available and what the different styles were. I had 3 of the sampler's and was able to try a few new beers.

This is a growing industry, so I'll be honest and say some are better than others- but it was great overall.

Stiefel Pub on FaceBook

Barrio Amon, 50 m. Este Edificio INS
Barrio Amon San José

+506 8569 5555