The logo for Imperial, by far the most popular beer in Costa Rica, is a black predatory bird set against a field of gold. Inspired by the black eagle from Germany’s coat of arms, the logo is so omnipresent in Costa Rica—on bar signs and T-shirts, not to mention the fact that the product itself can be found anywhere—that it is nearly a national symbol. To those who live there it’s as recognizable as the flag or rice and beans.
Imperial is like other national lagers around the world—unremarkable, refreshing when cold, reassuring in its availability. It’s what the typical drinker imagines when he hears that word, beer. As recently as two years ago, Imperial and its similar sister products from Florida Ice and Farm were all that tourists would have been able to find in Costa Rica. There was no craft beer.
But in a short time and fairly dramatic fashion, cerveza artesanal has gained what appears to be solid foothold. Some of the smallest operations lack consistency, and Costa Rica’s famously dense bureaucracy presents an obstacle to others trying to go pro. Yet there is variety and creativity for those who seek it.
The bottom line: Those who come to honeymoon, surf, hike a volcano, or commune with sloths will find more numerous and flavorful options to drink. But it helps, as they say, if you know where to look.