May 19, 2012

Costa Rica: Volcano Brewing Company

[Update: On August 28, 2013, Volcano Brewing Company will close their Arenal location and relocate to Playa Tamarindo.]

One of the big players in Costa Rica's rapidly growing craft beer scene, Volcano Brewing Company offers artisanal beer and spectacular views in a relaxed atmosphere. As part of our trip to the Costa Rica Craft Beer Festival, my girlfriend and I decided to make a beer-cation of it and check it out...

In the rural highlands of Costa Rica sits one of the country's most active volcanoes: Volcan Arenal. Volcano Brewing Company lies a safe distance away, just outside the town of Tilarán and on the opposite end of Costa Rica's largest lake. Even if you choose not to climb the volcano, windsurf the lake, or explore the surrounding tropical forests, be sure to enjoy a beer by the pool and watch the sun set.

Volcano Brewing Company had four craft beers on tap during our visit: two of their own unfiltered ales, plus two from Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Company:

  • Gato Malo Nut Brown Ale (VCB)
  • Dark amber in color, with a clean hop aroma. Flavors of caramel and coffee go down smoothly. Hopped with Challenger and Cascade. 4.5% ABV.
  • Witch's Rock Pale Ale (VCB)
  • A clean, sessionable, American-style pale ale, brewed with Chinook and Cascade hops. 4.8% ABV.
  • Libertas Golden Ale (CR Craft)
  • Clear, golden in color, and capped off with a white head. Subtle aromas of fruit are reminiscent of a certain apricot-flavored beer from Vermont, but this beer is much less full-bodied. 4.7% ABV.
  • Segua Red Ale (CR Craft)
  • This red ale features aromas of mild, fruity hops matched by caramel. Well-balanced hop bitterness makes it pair well with spicier dishes. 5% ABV.

Operated by the same folks behind Witch's Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Volcano Brewing Company has a swimming pool, skate park, and tennis court. The on-site "Eco Farm" provides produce and dairy for the restaurant. Menu highlights include the Spinach Tilapia and the monstrous house burgers. Both the fish and the beef are locally sourced.

In addition to helping you decide which beer to start with, the staff at Volcano Brewing Company will gladly assist in coordinating activities. The more adventurous can arrange to a trip to Arenal or the nearby waterfalls. Guests can also book area tours by horseback or kayak. For those just looking for a little down time, a massage can also be scheduled at the front desk.  

Visitors should consider visiting La Reserva, a reforestation project on the property next door. For a donation of $10 each, we took an easy hike around the property and saw toucans, howler monkeys, a sloth, and lots of interesting birds and plants.

Volcano Brewing Company is easily accessible by car, lying just a few hours north of San Jose by way of the Inter-American Highway. There are direct buses from San Jose to Tilarán Monday through Saturday. The one-way trip costs just over $6 and is a very manageable four-hour ride. Volcano Brewing Company is just an eight kilometer cab ride north of the Tilarán town center. If your driver is confused, tell them to go to Hotel Tilawa. (That was the name of the hotel under different ownership.) Don't forget to catch a shot of Volcan Arenal on the way.

Volcano Brewing Company embodies the best of Costa Rica: laid back living in a gorgeous natural setting. For assistance with travel arrangements, please feel free to contact me at:

VCB's 3.5 bbl brewhouse

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