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Costa Rica has jumped on the global craft brew express train.
And while the tiny Central American nation might be a late arrival, the Ticos are definitely intent on getting up to speed and making their mark in this burgeoning and important piece of the tourist industry.
Travelers are increasingly seeking out craft beer tours and other culinary aspects of a culture.
Dozens of bars and gastropubs have opened in San Jose City, the capital of Costa Rica, during the past five years. More than 40 craft brewers have popped up since then to supply all kinds of IPAs, lagers, saisons, Belgian ales and more as the brewpubs contribute to the revitalization of the city's neighborhoods (barrios).
Here are five cool things that make Costa Rica's craft brew scene awesome:
You'll Feel Right at Home
I visited three brew pubs serving a wide range of Costa Rican craft beers on an Urban Adventures "The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose" tour. All three felt as if they were designed in the spirit of similar bars in the United States.
Stiefel Brew Pub in Barrio Amon, along with Aguizotes Gastro Pub and Casa Brew Garden in Barrio Escalante each owned touches of an American brewpub style that you might find in any quaint spot in Asheville, North Carolina, or Portland, Oregon, or Fort Collins, Colorado.
Rows of taps handles line the back of the long bar, while creative murals and beer-festival posters fill the walls. Large chalkboards display the beer varieties, with grids highlighting the ales, pilsners, IPAs and meads as well as their associated ABVs.
A Side of Cacique Guaro
These familiar bar settings come with a Costa Rican flair, of course.
We sipped Smoke Extra Pale Ale, New Guy IPA and a Belgian-style brew made with hibiscus flower. Bartenders offer small shooters of Cacique Guaro-a spicy tomato juice, Tabasco and citrus juice liquor-to sip alongside our beers.
This is Costa Rica's most famous liquor, and the salty, hot chili drink keeps patrons reaching for the cool relief of another beer.
Boozy Ice Cream
Another uniquely Costa Rican treat, Galway is an artisanal ice cream stand in Barrio Escalante that serves up sweet classics infused with boozes like vodka, tequila, Jack Daniel's, Malibu rum and Jagermeister.
The unique parlor sits in one of the hottest craft brewing neighborhoods in San Jose. People out for their night of dining and drinking in Barrio Escalante like to flock to Galway for a palate-cleansing boozy ice cream treat that kickstarts their evenings.
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The craft brew scene in Costa Rica is indeed blossoming, with brewers and pubs opening around the country, from the Central Valley to the coastal regions. But most of the businesses are in San Jose City, and several surrounding neighborhoods have reaped the benefits of a growing taste for new beers.
The country's longtime favorite Imperial is still the affordable lager of choice for the worker to drink at home. But the more expensive craft beers are becoming popular as part of an overall experience for going out and socializing. Eateries and gastropubs have sprouted up to support this craving.
Barrios like Escalante and Amon have evolved into restaurant districts and are hopping on weeknights and weekends, with craft beer and food as a focus.
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There is so much to choose from. Look for varieties from Costa Rica breweries such as Treintaycinco, Perro Vida, Lake Arenal Brewing, Adama Brewing and the Costa Rica Craft Brewing Co. to get flavorful tastes of this budding beer hot spot.
To try something with Costa Rican flair, look for varieties with smoked malts, Jamaica flowers or starfruit.
John Roberts is a perpetually restless soul with a home base in Central New Jersey. He loves to share his adventures and...
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