While the Central American nation of Costa Rica has earned worldwide acclaim for its spectacular natural beauty and high concentration of fascinating flora and fauna, a new catalyst for increased tourism is looming just over the horizon. In the western reaches of the nation, the sunny shores of Guanacaste province are experiencing a craft beer boom, ushering in a new wave of breweries spanning from the shores of Lake Arenal to the heart of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Roughly one hour west of the provincial capital of Liberia, the charming seaside community of Las Catalinas is one of the latest destinations to embrace this growing industry. Renowned for its gorgeous Mediterranean-reminiscent architecture, this car-free community saw the debut of Papagayo Taphouse just a few weeks ago, joining a wealth of local drinking and dining concepts ranging from the Mediterranean-focused Ponciana to Copper & Stone, a polished market that’s equipped with more than 250 different varieties of wine—and for Papagayo Brewing Co-Founder Bobby Hottensen, it’s easy to see how the province has become such an emerging destination for craft beer.
“Craft beer is not new to Costa Rica, but we have definitely seen some positive developments in the scene here in Guanacaste in the past few years,” says Hottensen. Given the province’s high concentration of scenic beaches and verdant swathes of rainforest, a particularly diverse array of international visitors can be found exploring the region, with a particularly high concentration of Canadians and U.S. citizens making up the crowd. Bonded by a shared affinity for top-tier ales and lagers, this desire for fresh, locally-made craft beer from this particular demographic has allowed Papagayo Brewing—and the overall industry—to flourish in recent years.
While Hottensen notes that the national capital of San José has traditionally been home to a more prominent beer scene than Guanacaste, recent trends indicate that Costa Rica’s westernmost province is well on its way to building a beer empire of its very own. A diverse bouquet of breweries have sprouted throughout the 2010s, with the nationally-renowned Volcano Brewing Company kicking off the trend back in 2011. Over the past decade, the venue has been joined by a wealth of like-minded concepts scattered all across the province ranging from Brothers of Ale to Las Olas Brewing, a seaside operation that’s known for its decadent barbecue.
As for Papagayo Taphouse, there are currently four varieties of craft beer available on draft alongside rotating seasonal selections, a small range of cocktails, and flavorful dishes like bang bang shrimp and Baja fish tacos. There are several brews that are particularly suitable for a nightcap after a day in the hot Guanacaste sun—but when it comes to choosing a favorite, Hottensen has a tough time picking just one.
“Our goal at Papagayo is to make beers that accentuate the tropical climate here—beers that are as refreshing and drinkable as they are flavorful,” he says. “Probably the best representation of that is our best-seller, the Tropical IPA. It has an awesome citrusy and juicy hop aroma, but it is light and easy to drink—perfect for the heat. The second choice is our Passion Fruit Ale. It’s a really crisp, light golden ale made with local passion fruit (“maracuyá”) from Costa Rica. Both taste amazing after a bike ride or hike through the trails at Las Catalinas or while enjoying a beach day at Playa Danta!”