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One of the most crucial questions for any person traveling to anywhere is what beer you drink… while in many countries you have a choice from a huge variety of beer, this is quite different in Central America. Most countries have between 2-3 beer brands to choose and mostly they are produced by the same brewery. This is the case with Balboa and Panama in Panama, Toña/Victoria in Nicaraugua and it most definitively is with Pilsen/Imperial in Costa Rica. Although the producing brewery Florida Co. has released some further beers, the question of faith is still: Imperial or Pilsen?

Truth be told, there is not much of a taste difference between the two. Pilsen contains a bit more alcohol (5,1%, compared to Imperial’s 4,6%) and is a bit more aromatic. But on a hot day when you’re just thirsty, wanting to enjoy a fresh cerveza you might hardly tell the difference between the two. Neither you will after having had a couple already. Nevertheless, Pilsen drinkers look down on “Imperialists” and vice versa. Imperial, also called “aguila” (the Spanish word for the eagle depicted on the bottle) is known as a gringo beer in some parts of Costa Rica, apparently because its design appeals more to tourists, uncertain which of the two beers to choose. Hence, they end up drinking Imperial.

I just want to point out that this war of believes is nothing short of pointless. Compared to the varieties of taste in European beers, there is not much of a difference between the two. However, the only Costa Rican brewery mentioned above has released a new brand of beer a couple of years ago, called “Bavaria“. There is a dark and a light one and, for Central American standards, this beer is a real revelation. As the name foretells, this beer is aimed towards the German brewing tradition (rather than the North American) and the result is definitively one of Central America’s best – particularly if you compare it to the light-beer water of Panama (with max. 3,5% alcohol)!

So I do recommend to drink Bavaria when you do have a real choice. If not (as in most parts of the country) and you can only choose between the two classical brands Imperial and Pilsen: I recommend you adapt to your environment and drink whatever they drink, assuring them that this is clearly the better beer than the other one…



One Comment

  1. My dad lives in costa rica, and when I visit him, it’s always Pilsen. I think it has a lot more flavor, and I like how it’s kind of unknown in the states where as imperial can be found all over here (southern cal), so it feels like a treat when I’m down there.

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