Cerveza Tica goes Artesanal
Craft beer makes strides in Costa Rica
One of the country’s well-traveled tourist roads runs from the classically conical and still active Arenal Volcano, around the northern shores of Lake Arenal, and on toward the beaches of Guanacaste. There are many signs along that route, for hotels and butterfly zoos and other attractions, but this one near Tilaran is hard to miss:
FARM FRESH FOOD AHEAD – 1K
VOLCANO BREWING COMPANY
Because it’s on a touristed route but not usually a destination in itself, Volcano Brewing (rooms $65 to $95) and its earlier incarnations have had to be many things to many people. Hotel, bar, restaurant, windsurfing school, tour guide—it has been and remains all those things. Yet, go figure, beer has a way of bringing folks in that those other things don’t. So the brewpub has moved to front and center of the operation. The owners of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo recently took over management and infused it with the sort of sunny optimism that seems to emanate from surf culture around the world.
On a clear day, the tavern’s bar stools offer a panoramic vista of Lake Arenal and its surrounding hills, and possibly even the volcano itself (which is still an hour away by car). Flagship beers are the orange-amber Witch’s Rock Pale Ale and nut brown Malo Gato, both flavorful but light enough to refresh in tropical heat. Occasionally there are seasonals. Notably, the tavern also pours CRCB’s Libertas and Segua on draft. If it’s hot enough outside even hardcore geeks may not complain about the default frozen mugs, but unfrozen ones are available.
The cheese comes from milk that comes from cows that live on the hotel’s own farm. Many of the fruits and veggies come from the farm too, although some come from local markets, which get it from nearby farms. The meat is local too, and the fish comes from the lake. Expatriate German bakers make the bread.
“Overall, we’re stoked at how much product we are able to grow or source locally, and we’re happy with our farm-to-table efforts,” said chief operating officer Yana Farrally-Plourde. “It’s great to know where our food comes from… but we also don’t let the eco-farming side completely define us. We are a brewery, and we like to have fun, and not be too over-zealous.”
Eat at Joe’s, the tavern at Playa Tamarindo’s Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, provides the other dedicated outlet for Volcano’s beers, which are draft-only. Weeklong surfing packages include lessons, breakfasts, transport and room starting at $879. Food ranges from breakfast to tex-mex and onward to a full sushi menu. The card advises, sagely, that, “vacation calories don’t count.”
Joe Stange is co-author of the forthcoming Good Beer Guide Belgium, 7th edition (2013), with Tim Webb.