June 6, 2012

Costa Rica: Treintaycinco - La Fábrica Artesanal de Cervezas

cerveceria treintaycinco costa rica
Some people say you must be insane to try to make craft beer in Costa Rica. Well, the guys at Treintaycinco may very well be crazy, but I think they're onto something.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ignacio Castro Cortinas, one of the founding members of Treintaycinco, a small craft brewery soon to hit the market. Treintaycinco is a trio of Venezuelans made up of Ignacio, his best friend from college, and his brother-in-law. At first they were told they were nuts to try it, that Ticos would never get past drinking Imperial. OK, fine: they're doing it anyways, with attitude and a distinctive local flavor. Their venture is currently located just outside of San Jose in the town of Escazú, where Nathanael Montaño does most of the brewing, and Ignacio and Luis Alfredo "Frito" Araque focus on branding and recipe development.

My first question was, how did they come up with the name Treintaycinco?


When the cops in Costa Rica are called in to intercept a lunatic, the code for that call is a 35. And how about that crazy looking creature they have for a logo? That part of the brand comes from a saying in Spanish: "You're as mad as a goat."

Put them together and there you have it: Treintaycinco, the three-headed, five-legged goat.

Like many in the craft beer industry, the three founders of Treintaycinco started out with a passion for homebrewing. Frustrated by the lack of craft beer in Latin America, they decided to make their own.  They started with extract kits, soon progressing to all-grain brewing and experimenting with various adjunct ingredients.

Keeping in the spirit of their crazy, three-headed, five-legged, lunatic-coded brand, Treintaycinco excels in high gravity cerveza artesanal -- most of their beers are at least 6.5% ABV. They strive to use locally-grown, organic ingredients in their beers as much as possible. Their current offerings include four ales and one lager, although they also have a dark Belgian ale in the works, aged in "guaro de contrabando" barrels and featuring a homemade candy sugar made in the Belgian tradition.
  • Majadera (6.5%) - "Hard-nosed and stubborn," this IPA has an intense smell of fruity hops with citrus undertones. Golden in color with a thick and persistent head, its bitter flavors are well balanced by a light sweet malty taste, finishing dry with a refreshing mouthfeel and moderate carbonation. Its strong hoppy character and its decisive alcoholic content will make beer lovers pleasantly remember their Majadera. 
  • Maldita Vida (9.8%) - This American Barleywine is the strongest ale yet produced by Treintaycinco. It has moderate carbonation and a lasting warm mouthfeel with a silky and sweet finish. Its intense copper-red color pairs with tastes of caramel malt and its high alcoholic content is disguised by the floral hops that enhance the Maldita Vida experience. 
  • Lora (8.4%) - Lora is Treintaycinco's Belgian strong ale, a clear, golden-colored beer with a large, creamy, and persistent head coming from its high carbonation. With a fruity aroma and a dry finish, drinkers may still perceive a good dose of alcohol.
  • Mamacandela (7.8%) - Treintaycinco's cacao stout is a "voluptuous brunette beauty," an interpretation of what a "legit Costa Rican stout" should be. It is the color of dark chocolate, with a dry bitterness that helps to balance the creamy, sweet flavors of locally grown organic cacao and honey. Give Mamacandela a try -- you will keep coming back for more.
  • Japiendin (4.5%) - Treintaycinco’s tapadulce (sugar cane) lager introduces some tropical flavor  to the German classic. It has a light copper color, high carbonation, and a strong presence of caramel malts. However, the mouthfeel and drinking experience is quite smooth due to the strong tapadulce aroma and is sure to finish with a "happy ending."

Light-hearted insanity aside, it's not easy to start a microbrewery in Central America. Sourcing ingredients is a challenge, as barley and hops are not grown in Central America. Permits are another difficulty, regardless of where you're located. Luckily, a robust craft beer scene is developing in Costa Rica. The formation of a brewer's guild is able to help with some of these issues. Ignacio acknowledged a "nice working relationship" with other Costa Rican craft brewers Volcano Brewing Company and La Perra Hermosa, helping each other out with bulk purchase of grains and various technical issues, like kegging and equipment.

Treintaycinco is still a few months out from their official launch, but in the meantime they are participating in events like the Costa Rica Craft Beer Festival and tastings at local homebrew stores like La Bodega de Chema. They hope to release the brews to select restaurants by the end of the year.


Ignacio and his fellow partners are not only passionate about making beer, but also with sharing it. They intend to sell Treintaycinco in 1/2 liter, 750ml, or even full liter bottles, reinforcing the idea that beer is meant to be appreciated with friends. It can be paired with fine food, and can be just as versatile as wine, or even more so.


It was really interesting to find that someone like Ignacio, from a background so different than my own, shares many of my own philosophies in terms of beer and food. We both believe in buying local, buying fresh, and doing things yourself. "For me," Ignacio confided, "drinking beer you made yourself is just like eating a fresh tomato out of your own garden. It's fresh, and it just tastes better when you know where it came from." I couldn't agree more.

Treintaycinco is certainly creating a stir in the craft beer community and I am truly looking forward to seeing what these guys come up with next.