Gut Rumbles

January 27, 2010

Beer in Costa Rica

Originally published June 3, 2004

Imperial is a damn good beer. A brand called Pilzen also is brewed locally in Costa Rica, but it tastes a lot like Miller Lite. I preferred Imperial.

But be careful when you order a beer in Costa Rica. For some reason, they serve it in a glass over ice if you don't tell them differently. Da mi una cervesa, por favor. Un Imperial, con no vaso y no hielo.

You need to master that bit of Spanish if you visit Costa Rica. That phrase means "Give me a beer, please. An Imperial, with no glass and no ice." Drink it straight out of a cold, frosted bottle. Otherwise, some well-intentioned bartender will pour your beer into a glass full of ice and hand you a saltshaker on the side. Yes, Costa Ricans like salt in their beer.

I wandered into several establishments that might be called "working-class bars" by American standards. They weren't fancy and the crowd wore work-boots and raincoats because of all the lluvia falling from the sky. They sat around drinking beer on ice, with a dash of salt, while they ate arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) from steaming bowls, piled high.

These weren't rough joints, just down-to-earth, and I enjoyed visiting them. With my shitty Spanish, I didn't exactly fit in with the crowd, and I am certain that they knew I was a tourista, but everybody was polite and friendly. The beer was cheap, the music was good and arroz con pollo ain't half bad when you've been walking around in the rain all day. It felt pretty good on a hungry belly.

One other thing to remember: They also put the hot water faucets on the RIGHT HAND side of every sink and shower that I saw there. I knew what "F" and "C" meant on the faucets (That's "frio" and "caliente," cold and hot) but I never quite got the knack of remembering that the faucets were backward down there. I damn near scalded my Cracker ass a few times in the early morning before my eyes were open well.

I didn't get my fill of that place. I'm going back very soon.

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