25 Costa Rican Craft Beers Reviewed

La Micro Domingo #7 Golden Ale

Bottle. Clear light amber-gold with a thin white head. Aroma is lightly malty in the way of toasted grains, honey, sachharine; hoppy in the faint of lemon and dried herbs (noble strain?). Light bodied, lightly sweet with low bitterness. Carbonation is rough and the finish is quick, there’s no depth to it but both malt and hop are expressed suitably, which in Costa Rica is a rarity.

La Micro Domingo Buho Amber Bock

Bottle. Filtered cola brown with a short tan head. Malty aroma with dominant notes of fig / date / raisin, toasty brown malt, and toffee/butterscotch. Medium bodied, sweet with measured bitterness, rough texture, somewhat grating carbonation, finishing somewhat syrupy and filmy with a finish of buttered toast and dates with finishing hops expressed as leafy vegetables and old citrus. Altogether a decent attempt, certainly more flavorful than anything else to be found in the local Supermercado, with no glaring imbalances or fermentation defects, but it is rather basic.

Cervecera del Centro Ambar

Cervecera del Centro
5.5% Oktoberfest/Märzen
Bottle. Filtered copper-amber with a short white head. Malt-driven aroma impression is caramel syrup, red delicious apple, dried leaves, toasted nuts, with faint dirtiness manifesting as metal flakes and general chemical odors. Light bodied and syrupy with seltzer-like carbonation, sweet and apple-y and raw with little depth. Basic, watery, malty lager.

Beéche Centennial Single Hop IPA

Beéche Cerveceria Artesanal
5.5% India Pale Ale (IPA)
340ml bottle. Mostly clear amber-orange with a short off-white head. Aroma impression is green leaf vegetables, rotting fruit, bug spray, fruit cocktail. Medium-full bodied, syrupy and sweet and filmy in the mouth. Carbonation is nicely supple and soft, the approach is semi-sweet and bitterness stays mild. Turns sour in the finish where the bug spray / chemical note is stronger. Pretty crude and dirty beer that fails to convey the character of Centennial hops with any clarity.

Beéche American Amber Ale

340ml bottle. Clear ruby toned body with a short white head. Aroma impression is raisin, caramel candies, grenadine, fusel alcohol, along with a kind of game-y, musk-y, dish rag dirtiness. Medium bodied with a sweet approach during more dry and starchy in the finish, where the sugar just seems to evaporate and the body is left thin, watery, and lifeless. There’s some remnant white bread toast and corn starch flavors in the finish along with some ambient strawberry-like fruitiness.

Niño Huracán Palo Santo White Wheat

Unfiltered bottle. Hazed pale gold body with a short white head of little retention. Aroma impression is banana esters, wheat, citric lemon juice and zest with faint laundry detergent off-notes. Light bodied, lightly sweet and sour in the mouth with a sour lime juice and soap finish. There is some trace of alcohol and the finish is sharp, and overall it’s a simple and basic beer but thankfully not as flawed as their Red Ale and Pale Ale.

Belmar Dos Mares India Pale Ale

Cervezas Artesanales Belmar
6.5% India Pale Ale (IPA)
Bottle best by April 2016. Mostly clear reddish-orange (closer to 25 SRM than 15) with a short white head of little retention. Aroma is malty in the way crystal malt and baked apples, hoppy in the way of grapefruit, apricot, pine sap, cedar. Medium bodied, sweet and candy-like with palpable bitterness and a harsh, crunchy texture. The malt is nicely savory and the body is plump but it seems to need more conditioning to take away the edge. Complaints aside, it’s actually well-made, nothing is grossly off or unbalanced, and the aroma hops have more depth than you find in most American-made IPAs. Still this isn’t the type of beer I go for (crystal malt, fruity-resinous American hops), but for Costa Rica it’s certainly a level up in quality over the other available "craft" beers.

La Micro Domingo Mano Roja Red Ale

Bottle. Filtered amber-brown with an average-sized off-white head. Malt-driven aroma impression is crystal malt, red delicious apples, burnt bread crust, with hops quietly expressed as wood oil, licorice, citrus. Medium bodied, moderately sweet and crunchy / toasty in the mouth with bracing carbonation and medium-low bitterness. It’s crude and unpolished, but like their other beers, nothing is terribly wrong or unpalatable.

Costa Rica’s Escalante Red Ale

Costa Rica Beer Factory
4.8% Amber Ale
Bottle. Lightly hazed amber-orange with a short white head. Aroma is malty in the way of red apples, granola, burnt toast; hoppy in the way of resin, green tea, leaf vegetables, grapefruit; slightly dirty and yeasty but mostly just plain and uninteresting in the nose. In the mouth it’s medium-light bodied, sweet, coarse, moderately bitter, strongly acidic and sour. Has an odd mineral / seltzer water effect, the ingredients are expressed poorly, texture is grating and rough, and the sourness is unpalatable.

Dos Hermanos Angus Pale Ale

Dos Hermanos Cerveceria Artesanal
6.5% American Pale Ale
Funny that it calls itself a Pale Ale, it’s not Pale at all, instead it’s amber-brown and would be classified as an Amber/Red Ale by a reasonable person. The aroma is strange presentation of nutty and apple-y malt with black cherry and grenadine, similar in character to an Old Fashioned cocktail. Medium-light bodied and sweet with a syrupy and gelatinous texture and considerable roughness. Pretty bad overall, with no authentic ingredient expression and poor flavor balance (sweet, goopy, under-attenuated). Even looks bad, pouring with no sustained head.

Niño Huracán Monarca Red Ale

Bottle. Unfiltered lightly hazed orange with a short white head of little retention. Dirty aroma impression is hay, rotting oranges, fruit cocktail, dirty dish rag, solvent, menthol, soggy bread, cranberries. Medium-light bodied, sweet approach quickly turning acidic and sour and bitter in the finish. Coarse and unpolished, this one went down the drain rather quickly.

Lake Arenal Paradise Pale Ale

Lake Arenal Brewery
5% American Pale Ale
Citric and lightly resinous with dominant notes of grapefruit, orange juice, bubble gum, and yeast / dough. It’s sweet and pulpy and medium-light bodied, creamy and yeasty in the mouth but without body, finishing overly bitter and cheese-y (old hops). I overheard the brewer excitedly tell someone that this was 15 days old, and tapped at 9. That makes sense. So let it be a lesson on why cold conditioning and yeast flocculation are so important.

Niño Huracán Silampa Pale Ale

Cerveceria Artesanal Niño Huracán
5.5% American Pale Ale
Unfiltered and undated bottle. Aroma impression is caramel malt, fruit cocktail, woody resin, red apples, granola fruit bars, dried cranberries, dirty in the way of dish rag in the nose with coarse acidity in the mouth confirming the smell. It’s medium bodied, sweet, moderately bitter, gritty and coarse with grating acidity combined with spicy and woody hoppiness late (seems something like Fuggles).

Cervecera del Centro Trigueña Weissbier

Cervecera del Centro
5% German Hefeweizen
Bottle. Lightly hazed gold with a short white head. Odd aroma is wheat-centric with notes of corn and iceberg lettuce (DMS) and chemicals and lighter touches of what you expect: banana esters, lemon juice, toasted grain. Light bodied, sweet and syrupy and banana-heavy in the mouth. Effervescent and sharp in the finish, as well as watery and thin, as well as papery and slightly sour. Hefeweizen in Central American seems like a perfect fit, I just wish this one didn’t have SO MANY PROBLEMS.

Belmar Aurorae Pale Ale

Cervezas Artesanales Belmar
5.4% American Pale Ale
Draft at Hotel Belmar in Monteverde. Hazed orange with a thin white head. Aroma impression is toasted grain, apricot, honey. The lemon balm is pretty forward in the aroma and finish, but I find that it’s more enjoyable and less harsh in the bottle compared to tap. It’s medium bodied, moderately sweet with medium+ bitterness, the carbonation is low. There’s a minimal trace of diacetyl that isn’t ruinous, instead the effect is something like English Pale Ale / Bitter.

La Micro Domingo Tanomanso Wheat Beer

Bottle. Hazy pale gold with a short white head. Aroma is floral coriander, soap, banana esters, wheat, toasted grain pale malt. Light bodied, sweet, chewy, a little filmy / yeasty, finishing quick and soapy. Basic citric-floral wheat beer with no glaring flaws, but it’s not something I could drink a lot of.

Dos Hermanos Carlitos Brown Ale

Rather than looking or smelling like a brown ale, it looks like cola and smells like Amber Ale. The aroma impression is red apples, caramel syrup, fruit compost and bacteria, very artificial and inauthentic. In the mouth it’s light bodied and sweet and syrupy and flat, but also rough and acidic, I would guess from poor sanitation. Honestly this and the "Pale Ale" look the same and I suspect they are the same beer sold as two different names.

Gallo Tapao Brumosa Pale Ale

Gallo Tapao
6.2% American Pale Ale
Hazy gold with a short white head, this Pale Ale tries to show it’s aroma hops (cantaloupe, grapefruit / orange, coconut). The malt is lightly toasty but mostly transparent, though the texture has some decent savoriness. Both hops and malt are marred by sanitation problems (subtle note of dirty dish rag), and the hops do have an odd cheese (old cones) and brine quality. It’s medium-light bodied and lightly sweet with relatively strong bitterness, finishing with notes of apricot, lemon, unripe cantaloupe, sour citrus fruit, and honey. Overall it’s a respectable but unpolished attempt at American Pale Ale, and could benefit from fresher hops. Kudos to them for leaving the beer unfiltered and for bottle conditioning, though.

Lake Arenal Surf Saison

Milky gold with a short white head. Lemon juice and orange juice citric aroma actually seems like it has citrus juice in it... there’s tropical pineapple notes and something like coconut oil. Sweet with medium-low bitterness and medium+ acidity. Yeasty/doughy, pulpy, zesty, basically as cloudy as hefeweizen and suffers from overt yeastiness and lack of body, finishing extremely watery and thin and unsatisfying. But at least the initial impression of the nose was nice. It doesn’t smell like a rustic yeast strain, but it is banana-y and peppery and a little raw due to the beer not being finished, which the tropical-fruity aroma hops try to cover.

Belmar Nubosa Tropical Stout

Cervezas Artesanales Belmar
7.5% Foreign Stout
Deep brown with a lasting brown head. Aroma impression is dark chocolate maltiness with a brine-y and ester-y yeastiness that says this is definitely in the mold of Foreign Stout. Plum and red grape and touches of alcohol (not fusels or harsh ethanol, though more noticeable than you expect for a mid-7% beer) to go with a quiet sea shell saltiness. In the mouth and retronasal the malt manifests as chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and highly toasted cereals. It’s medium-full bodied, lightly sweet with moderate bitterness, effervescent with silky carbonation and only a small dose of roast astringency. Pretty fun stout to find down here in Costa Rica, not overly sweet, lush mouth feel, and the ester and phenol profile is in the vein of Harvey’s Imperial Stout.

Tierra Fertil Elfica

Tierra Fertil
7% Amber Ale
A medium-to-full bodied malty and rich red ale that shows an aroma of wood, apple bake, black cherry, nuts, fall leaves. It’s sticky, spicy, savory and lush, finishing bitter and halfway sweet. There are a lot of Amber/Red Ales from Costa Rica microbreweries, for some reason. These burly 7% versions are especially odd. Why strong red beer of all things? Unlike so many bad examples of the style made in CR (Niño Huracán, Craft Beer Co., Beéche, Dos Hermanos), this one seems like a finished product.

BJCP-certified beer judge, photographer, and software developer from Boulder, Colorado. I use this site to chronicle my worldwide beer adventures shared through photography and stories, with a focus on traditional old world brewing practices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *