Magnum Drinking Opus: Costa Rica

Nov 09, 2014

I have a soft spot for the national beer of Costa Rica, as I do with the rest of the country (barring San Jose which is a dump) because it is where I spent two of the best weeks of my life while on my honeymoon. That national beer is Imperial.


The first time I was in Costa Rica, Imperial, like the rainforest, cloud forest, and the color green was new to me. (No I am not colorblind. Yes I have seen the color green before. However I had never before seen green like you do in Costa Rica.) I was entranced. Everything was foreign and exotic. I became obsessed with Imperial. I bought an Imperial hat. I looked for it back home. (Which I easily found, but only ever bought one once.)

Nearly five years, several months of backpacking and a handful of Central American countries later, that sense of mystery that surrounded Imperial was sadly gone. That is not to say that I now dislike Imperial. I most certainly still like it. I find it to be one of the best beers in Central America. It has however fallen back to the mean. It did not stand out nearly as much as I thought it would from the rest of the lagers I had experienced throughout Central America.

I would rank Imperial as my second favorite CA beer behind Salva Vida. Completely non-offensive, with an actual beer taste, which can be hard to come by.

The best way to consume Imperial while in Costa Rica is in 1liter bottles and this simply because it is cost effective. Costa Rica is expensive, especially when buying food and drink. Buying beer in Costa Rica is easily three times as expensive as anywhere else in Central America. Prices rival, if not exceed, those in the States. This means it costs $10 for a six pack of Imperial whereas buying two 1liter bottles – which is roughly the same volume as six cans, will only set you back $6. It’s just the smart money purchase.


Besides expensive mass produced lagers, Costa Rica did give us the chance to taste actual, real beer again for the first time in months.

Tucked away in the cloud forest town of Santa Elena (a personal favorite) is the Monteverde Beer House. It is a brand spanking new restaurant and microbrewery. We had the opportunity to taste both the nut-brown ale and the porter. Both beers are crafted in small batches from sparging to bottling by the owner (I forgot his name, then again I may have never known it).



The nut-brown ale was an old batch and the proprietor was worried it would be no good. It was however, a fine batch. The maltiness that came through was a revelation. Dark and nutty, it was the finest beer I had consumed since leaving home.  That was until I had the porter. I am not normally a dark beer lover, but I couldn’t have been happier with the black-as-pitch porter. Extremely smoky with tastes of both freshly roasted coffee and perfectly cooked campfire sausages, it was divine. My hat goes off to the Monteverde Beer House. They know how to make good beer and should become a mainstay in the Costa Rican highlands for some time to come. Now if only they could bottle it and sell it throughout Central America, and not charge the $5 per pint they do in the restaurant. 



Category: Food

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