What is more captivating than hope; more spellbinding than promise?
Beer, of course. When the beer is the surprising new fascination, it’s an ideal situation for me!
So with a great sense of hope and promise, I dove into the mystery of Costa Rican craft brews a few weeks ago. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by friends, both old and new, for this experience. Patrick Feury, Executive Chef and co-owner of the spectacular Berwyn restaurant, Nectar, and I go back a ways. We’ve traveled together for food and drink experiences to Scotland and the Mayan coast of Mexico. Steve Wildy, the sommelier extraordinaire everybody wants as a friend, was there, organizing the beers and guiding the discussion for this tasting.
New friends included our host, Jeremy Allen, his wife, Debra, and business partner, Dave. The business partner detail is important. Their mutual business interest is a 38-suite hotel on Costa Rica’s dramatic Pacific coast. The Arenas Del Mar seems very cool and casual despite having earned many lofty accolades. The Government of Costa Rica has annually awarded it 5 Stars for luxury and 5 Leaves for sustainability making it the only hotel to win both awards. The readers of Travel + Leisure magazine voted it the Top Family Hotel in Central and South America in 2013. The wedding planning website, TheKnot.com, listed it as one of the 50 most exotic honeymoon resorts in the world in 2013.
But the best is yet to come, as this September and November, the hotel will play host to the first ever Costa Rica Beer Week(s)!
This being the reason we were all gathered around an expansive dining room table, there to assess the beers of the five Costa Rican craft breweries to begin planning the culinary experience we’d be offering our guests.
We tasted beers from Perrovida, Costa Rican Craft Brewing, Volcano Brewing and Treintaycinco. The last brewery’s name apparently came from police code for interception of a lunatic, “35.”
There were no lunatics in the bunch but it was a wild set of brews in terms of range. There was a solid focus on English style ales from one brewery with good malt structure and firm hops. Belgian fermentation characteristics popped up in a few brews, whether intentional or not, I cannot say with any authority. Most featured some pretty assertive hopping, perhaps an indication of American craft brewing on the young Costa Rican beer culture. There was not a credible lager to be had, so I know what I’ll be bringing to the party in September!
We ended big with Treintaycinco’s Mama Candela stout, brewed with cacao and honey, and Perrovida Massive Mastiff, a black imperial IPA paired with some wonderful blue cheese. Those flavors brought me to focus on our opportunity together in Costa Rica this fall, to create new experiences for our guests. Patrick and I are teamed up for the week of September 20 through 27 to present beer dinners and experiences centric to the Costa Rican breweries. Steve Wildy (www.VetriRistorante.com) and Brauhaus Schmitz Chef Jeremy Nolen (www.BrauhausSchmitz.com) get to try and out-do us November 1 through 8.
The promise of these Costa Rican breweries is ripe. You can taste both excitement and progress in their wild creations and I get the feeling that these brewers’ creations won’t be the same in three to five years. This trip is an opportunity to experience an emerging scene and appreciate it in its youth.
It’s both thrilling and captivating to me and I look forward to September and reporting back to you after this flavorful journey.