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Business is trying  to usher in craft brewing culture

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Beer vats
The CAFTA Report/Zack McDonald
 Beer vats at Costa Rica Craft Brewing Co.

Business is trying  to usher in craft brewing culture

By Zack McDonald
for The CAFTA Report

(Nov. 24, 2011) In Costa Rica´s oldest city, a refreshing business has been brewing for a year now on the south side of Cartago, Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Co.

It is one of the few micro-breweries in Costa Rica, and the two main products are  Libertas, a light, tropical golden ale, and the Segua, a drier red ale. The names are Spanish, but the barleys and hops used in each are strictly American — Wisconsin to be exact.

Peter Gilman, part owner from Colorado, has been in Costa Rica for 11 years, but he realized the area was missing something awhile back. So the team at Craft Brewing Co. bought the Cervecería K.S. in May 2010, and by January the small, 10-barrel brew house had its first craft ales in production, according to Gilman.

The brewing technique, just like the ingredients, is American, being that the brewmaster, Christopher ¨C.S.¨ Derrick, was a former brewer for the Colorado company Flying Dog Ale for 10 years. The taste of which comes through in the Segua.

Craft Brewing´s philosophy is deeply grounded in the tradition of craft brewing – the art of making various different styles of beer by the traditional brewing methods or standards.

¨We´re a small, niche business,¨ said Gilman. ¨We´re more into it to share cultures and brew good beer.¨

However, with any small business trying to pull itself up out of obscurity, taxes and government entities, the Instituto de Fomento y Asesoría Municipal and the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario in Craft´s case, play a huge role in siphoning off revenue. For the crew at Craft Brewing Co., after the sales tax, consumption tax and the alcohol tax, 41 to 42 percent of what the consumer pays for goes to taxes.

Throw in distribution cost, and the brewery walks away with little.

The tribulations of running a small business are intercontinental. However. the stories behind the names of the ales are purely home-grown. The Segua, for example, is from an old tale of a drunken married man riding home who picks up a beautiful woman only to find out later that she has the face of a horse. Hence the name, segua in Spanish.which means mare in English.

Most Ticos know of the story, and many non-Ticos know a version of it personally. However, many Ticos have never had or heard about the ales, not even the Cartagenos.

Even the Policía Turística can´t produce directions to the brew house yet. Fortunately, some cab drivers are aware of it due to dropping off Gringo beer enthusiasts and other
like-minded folk to take walking tours through the beer's creation process.

At first, they did not offer the tours, said Gilman. This was so they could focus on the ales production, but now every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. any locals or people just passing through, with an appointment, can walk through and learn about the brewing process.

 Before the tour begins there's a sampling of the two of the ales, Libertas
beers
The CAFTA report/ Zack McDonald
Barley, hops and the Libertas label
and Segua. As the tasting continues the guide gives a history lesson about beers and what makes Costa Rica's Brewing Co. product unique to the Costa Rican beer business.

¨The difference between lager and ale,¨ said Tómas, one of the tour guides, ¨lager is made from rice, corn or other cheaper products. Ale is made with barley and better cereals,¨ he added, referring to the oats the brewery uses.

Libertas is the tropical golden ale with a 4.7 percent alcohol volume. Segua, the red ale, is a little stronger with a 5 percent alcohol by volume. There are no preservatives or chemicals used, and the water used is from a pure local source which has low minerals. The firm does not use artificial ingredients, corn, rice, or sugars in the beer. The beer is unpasteurized always kept in cold storage and delivered cold in refrigerated trucks.

Gilman encourages people to come by and pick up a case or keg for soccer games, NFL Sundays or weddings. He said he can even come up with a special brew, given ample forewarning.

The cases of each run about 30,000 colons ($60) from the brewery, and the pony kegs, consisting of around five gallons, cost 50,000 colons ($100) – not including deposit for the shell and tap. Both beers can also be acquired at 10 locations in the Central Valley and 19 businesses in the rest of the country.

One of the goals of Craft Brewery Co. is to spawn a home brew organization consisting of different craft brewers throughout the country and to inspire people to come up with their own, literally, home-brewed beer.

¨It´s not that there´s one best beer,¨ Gilman added. ¨There´s all kinds of styles. Try ém all and buy the one you like.¨

Contact us here: Editor@TheCaftaReport.com






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