The CAFTA Report/Zack McDonald
Beer vats at Costa
Rica Craft Brewing Co.
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
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
was missing something awhile back. So the team at Craft
Brewing Co. bought the Cervecería K.S. in May 2010, and by
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
the brewmaster, Christopher ¨C.S.¨ Derrick, was a former
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
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
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
Throw in distribution cost, and the brewery walks away with
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
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.
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
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.
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
from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. any locals or
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,
The CAFTA report/ Zack McDonald
Barley, hops and the Libertas label
¨The difference between lager and ale,¨ said Tómas, one
guides, ¨lager is made from rice, corn or other cheaper products.
made with barley and better cereals,¨ he added, referring to the
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
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
The beer is unpasteurized always kept in cold storage and delivered
cold in refrigerated
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
special brew, given ample forewarning.
The cases of each run about 30,000 colons ($60) from the brewery, and
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
at 10 locations in the Central Valley and 19 businesses in the rest of
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,
¨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.¨