Friday, September 28, 2012

Costa Rica!

Witch's Rock Pale Ale

My three great loves are surfing, travel, and beer.  So I decided to fit it all in during one vacation!  Destination: Costa Rica.  Guide: Joe Walsh.  Participants: Myself, my brother David, and his pregnant wife Jenn.

Joe is a San Diegoan who bought a school bus and drove it to Costa Rica in 2001 to open a surf camp.  He ended up planting roots in Tamarindo, on the northwest coast in Guanacaste.  He eventually built Witch’s Rock Surf Camp into a full fledged bar, restaurant, hotel, surf shop, surf school and more.  In 2011 he bought a hotel/property above Lake Arenal and opened up Volcano Brewing Company and Hotel.

Since this is a beer blog, I will write about the last two days of our trip first.

Craft beer in Costa Rica is in it’s infancy.  The only two craft brewers are Volcano Brewing Company and Craft BrewingCompany.  Each makes two production beers: VBC with Witch’s Rock Pale Ale and Gato Malo (bad cat) brown ale. CBC makes Libertas Tropical Golden Ale and   La Segua Red Ale.

After the 2.5 hour drive from Tamarindo, we arrived at VBC hungry and thirsty.  After we checked into our well appointed rooms, we gathered in the restaurant area for some grub and suds.  We were instantly greeted with a free sampler of all four of Costa Rica’s craft beers.  The sampler tray was carved out of a log.  (Note: I will get into the tasting notes at the end of the blog).

the great staff at VBCC
Aside from a roadside lunch one day, we ate all of our meals at VBC and enjoyed most of what we ate.  The highlights were the Volcano Burger, Pollo Jalapeño, Whole Fried Tilapia from the lake, chicken wings, pancakes, and the tres leches dessert.  The volcano burger and pollo jalapeno came is a delicious jalapeño cream sauce.  The chicken was also served with mashed potatoes mixed with pale ale and thyme.

The property that VBC sits on is breathtaking.  On one side there is a complete view of the lake and surrounding mountains.  On the other, views of lush vegetation and hills.  Also on the property are a couple gardens and an awesome skate park. I didn’t ride the pools in the skate park, but I am sure if I tried, it would have ended poorly.  There is also a koi pond, pool and hot tub.  The hot tub area is pretty cool.  It is in a little grotto next to the pool.  It isn’t quite Hugh Heffner’s grottos, but still cool.

Me zip lining at 400ft
On Lake Arenal, you can go boating, paddle boarding, wind surfing and kite surfing.  Just research the best launch areas.  One the far side of the lake near La Fortuna is where a lot of action is.  Parque Nacional Volcan Arenal (Arenal Volcano National Park) is there.   We did an insane zip line next to the volcano with Skytrek.  The highest line is 600ft above ground, fastest is 55mph, and longest is ½ a mile!  Afterwards we relaxed at the Baldi Hot Springs. 

Witch’s Rock Surf Camp

The first part of our trip was spending five days in Tamarindo at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp.  This was my fourth visit since 2004 and I really loved it there.  If you are a surfer, this is a must visit.  If you want to learn how to surf, this is a must visit.

sunset from the pool in Tamarindo
One of my favorite spots at the surf camp is naturally the bar.  They now have all four of Costa Rica’s craft beers on tap, as well is Imperial; which is the national adjunct lager, er, cerveza.  They also serve nachos “as big as your ass.”

Tamarindo has a lot of bars, a couple of night clubs, tons of accommodations and a lot of good restaurants.  It is also a great hub for surfers, deep sea fishing and many other adventure activities.

Beer notes:
I had the WRSC Pale Ale my first day and liked it.  I had many Imperials afterwards.  When I went back to the Pale Ale, I could not stop drinking it.  The cascade hops really came through.  The more I drank it, the more I liked it.  This is a great flagship beer for a new brewery.

I had the Gato Malo a few times.  It is a rather pleasant brown ale.  And actually even refreshing, which is key in the tropical climate of Costa Rica.  I think it is a really good beer for a place like Costa Rica.  Many people who are not into craft beers think that "dark beers" are heavy.  We know they are wrong, and the Bad Cat will prove it.

I love what Joe Walsh is doing down there and I am really excited to see VBC grow.  If you plan a trip down there, contact me and I will put you in touch with the right people!

Side note:
Halfway to Volcano Brewing Company from Tamarindo is a really cool water fall that I highly recommend stopping at, Llanos de Cortes.  Instead of writing about the beauty of it, I will let my photo do the talking.

David and Richard at Llanos de Cortes.  You can wade into the water


  1. That sounds like an awesome trip. Wish I could have gone with you guys. I would love to try zip-lining sometime. It sounds like you have conquered every beer in Costa Rica. That should earn you a badge on Untapped.


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