Cerveza Tica goes Artesanal
Craft beer makes strides in Costa Rica
The Pub at the Edge of the World
The usual way to reach Nosara is in a rented four-wheel drive vehicle after flying into Liberia or San José. Respectively those routes offer either 90 minutes or four hours of paved roads followed by 45 minutes of dusty, bumpy gravel. The reward is Playa Guiones, one of the country’s more attractive and pristine beaches.
It feels like the edge of the world there but it’s not, yet. To get there you need to call 8928-5752 and ask Joe and Helena Wygal if they can send their friend Gunter down to pick you up. (Taxis are also available but can be expensive.) If the potholes don’t pop Gunter’s tires or rattle his doors off their hinges, you may indeed arrive safe and sound at the Black Sheep Pub.
The Black Sheep is not a business but rather a shrine to better pubs and better beer. It is a private club open most Saturdays, although with notice it can also be reserved for parties. Reverent bric-a-brac covers the walls, as it should, including a framed photo and autograph of Michael Jackson. The Beer Hunter once stayed at the Wygals’ bed and breakfast in Boston, where they also ran a private pub and lent their support to NERAX, the New England Real Ale Exhibition.
Joe Wygal’s pub is out in the jungle now, his passion for beer no more tame. On recent weekends he has had as many five different craft beers on tap, which is essentially unheard of in Costa Rica. He’s been known to drive many hours to gather a couple of five-gallon kegs for the coming Saturday. He also stocks bottles of every import he can manage, including Samuel Adams, Duvel and Paulaner. Reasonable prices reinforce the idea that this is not a business. Think of them as donations to the museum. A neighbor comes to work as bartender so that Joe can hold court.
“I love the pub culture,” Wygal said. “I had to start my own down here. It’s not a replica. It’s just a tribute.”
Back in Nosara, the Gilded Iguana offers spotless rooms ($50-95), a poolside bar, and solid pub grub, including fries made from local camote sweet potatoes. Gunter knows where it is.
Joe Stange is co-author of the forthcoming Good Beer Guide Belgium, 7th edition (2013), with Tim Webb.