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Annual Craft Beer Festival in Escazu
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Annual Craft Beer Festival in Escazu

Earlier this month, more than 3,000 thirsty patrons milled under the tents of Avenida Escazu – trendy site of the third annual Craft Beer Festival. What’s that you say? Artisanal brew in Costa Rica – home of the beloved Imperial, Pilsen and Bavaria? The country’s craft beer movement is in indeed well underway, with dozens of microbreweries offering an ever-expanding array of delicious stouts, IPAs, lagers and ales for those occasions that merit extra bold flavors.

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Beer festival gaining more attraction
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Festival highlights Costa Rica’s increasing love of good craft beer

Ticket holders were granted tastings of some 37 different varieties of brew, from the light and fruity to slightly bitter and hoppy. And while a good portion of festival-goers were gringo expats, a large number were Ticos, who have developed a palette for the rich, arresting flavors of India Pale Ale or well- crafted porter. To give a true sense of the growing artisanal beer movement, one only need look at ticket sales for the festival. In its first year, some 300 people were in attendance, while last year more than 2,000 came. 2014 was a record-setter with more than 3,000 visitors.

Variety of beers now being sold in more restaurants
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More varieties to be sold in Costa Rican pubs and restaurants

There was a time when, to find a decent brew, one had to travel to a select few pubs in the San Jose area. Now, with more home brew start ups getting their commercial licenses, beers made by outfits like Perro Vida, Treintaycinco, Calle Cimarrona, Pezuna Negra and Perra Hermosa will be available in more places. Their mouthwatering creations will join the ranks of Segua and Libertas – two notables made by Craft Brewing Company, based in Cartago. The creations of Perro Vida brewery were a festival favorite both this year and last. Their Imperial and black IPAs were out of this world, beckoning multiple tastings. Some of the brews were made by four-man operations that have yet to become commercially licensed, but if the demand for quality ale continues to surge, you can expect to see those for sale in the very near future.

Brewers take advantage of local ingredients

On tap were options like watermelon wheat, a chocolate-infused stout, and others using locally-sourced ingredients such as mango, pure cane sugar, and coffee. The good news is that beyond Escazu’s Product C restaurant and Stiefel Pub in San Jose, beer aficionados are starting to see more and more variety in local bars throughout the country – particularly in tourist hot spots like Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Tamarindo and Arenal. For those who are interested in going to next year’s Craft Beer Festival in Costa Rica, organizers anticipate a change in venue to accommodate the escalating crowds. No matter where it’s held, you can expect an afternoon of fun, incredible brews and access to several educational lectures on the art of making beer – plus a great chance to mix and mingle while making new friends.

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