Costa Rica’s craft beer festival — coming up on its fifth year — began, as most great ideas do, with a few friends sitting around drinking beer.
The festival held on Avenida Escazú, west of the capital, kicked off in 2012 when small-time brewers were looking to get the country drinking more than just Imperial and Pilsen.
“It was a group of friends in the business trying to come together and get people interested in beer,” said Luis Arce, president of the Costa Rica Association of Craft Brewers. “The growth since then has been pretty accelerated. The first festival had 300 entrants and just seven or eight businesses.”
Arce said the association is expecting around 2,000 visitors this year to sample beers and learn about the brewing process from the 32 national businesses who have signed on as exhibitors. The festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, is centered on nationality and independence, Arce said, highlighting the importance of small business in Costa Rica and of a product’s quality rather than its quantity.
“When we talk about independence in business it’s something smaller, not commercial,” he said. “It implies a focus on ingredients going into these beers and that the most important thing for us as producers is the taste.”
For noted beer makers around the country, the festival provides a platform to not only share their love of hops and malts, but to attract new clientele to their product. Adolfo Marín, who helped open up artisan beer-focused bars like Stiefel Pub and Casa, said the event is crucial for up-and-coming microbreweries looking to make their mark in Costa Rica’s burgeoning craft beer scene.
“It has a little bit of everything where it’s not only to celebrate beer but also for brewers to bring people in to get to know their businesses,” Marín said. “A lot of people from hotels and restuarants come to these festivals. It’s like a personalized product fair.”
Well-known, decorated breweries like Costa Rica Craft Brewery, Treintaycinco, and Marín’s Primate Brewing Company have already received recognition with awards at respected international competitions, despite being relatively young compared to many other microbreweries around the world. Arce said these accolades earned abroad give Costa Ricans plenty of reason to enjoy artisan beer made in the country.
“I think it’s been very important the recognitions that the beers have been awarded,” he said. “It’s something that gains more importance each time, and allows people here to realize that there are really good beers produced here in Costa Rica.”
The festival will also feature stands and workshops focused on educating attendees about different types of beers, like what separates an IPA from a summer ale, as well as how different beers are made.
Marín said the event also gives brewers the chance to showcase special beers that they’ve been working on, adding that his Primate Brewing will be unveiling a coffee porter made with ingredients from three of Costa Rica’s best coffees. He added that the growing festival remains the most important beer gathering in the country because, through the brewers’ many tasting options and educational methods, it pays homage to the beginning of the country’s craft beer revolution.
“This festival is distinguished from others because there is a romantic sense to it,” Marín said. “There is a sentiment of going back to where it all came from. It’s a sort of gallery where all the beer makers come together to enjoy and share beer.”
Tickets are on sale on the festival’s website and cost ₡15,000. The price goes up to ₡20,000 if you purchase tickets at the festival.
If you’re a designated driver or plan on not drinking, tickets are ₡6,000. Festivalgoers will be given a complimentary 3 oz. sampler glass, from which they can sample unlimited beer from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.