Brewing Beer and Living the Dream in Costa Rica: An Interview with George Faas

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This post is by Dena Levitz.

George Faas wanted to have a simpler life. So he left the United States, where he’d always lived, and moved to Costa Rica. He now spends his days brewing beer, farming and welcoming groups of guests from all over the world to the hotel where he lives and works. We talked to him about how he’s handled the switch and what’s happening at Costa Rica’s only microbrewery hotel.

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What made you leave the States and move to Costa Rica?

I had been here before.  As a wee lad, I put on a backpack and toured CR and Panama.  I bought a machete and everything.  Years later, I moved to San Jose to teach English for a year.  So I was already familiar with CR.  After returning to the States for a year, I realized I wanted a simpler life like the one I had had teaching English.  I ran out of money after being laid off.  It made me look at the world as I never had before.  I woke up and wanted to grow food, brew beer and live sustainably.  I became obsessed with my garden, and knew I would go crazy if I were to stay for winter.  It gets really cold in the winter up north.  So I happened upon an ad for a hotel gardener.  The hotel just happened to have a beer brewery inside of it.  I bought the ticket with the intention to work harder than I ever had when I arrived.  I showed up and liked the spot and the rest is history.

What’s your role at the hotel and brewery? What do you do day to day?

The brewery does get first priority.  Brewing is 90 percent cleaning, so that’s exciting, right?  Between that and my farming projects, it keeps me very busy.  My role is whatever I want it to be.  I’m allowed to wander about doing whatever needs to be done.  I love it.  I try to plant something every day.  That makes me feel that it was a good day.

Brag a little about your beers. What do you make?

I make the Witch’s Rock Pale Ale and the Gato Malo Dark Ale.  I’m really not one to brag.  However, the Pale Ale is the best beer sold in Costa Rica.  The Dark Ale is great option for a richer smoother taste.  The Pale Ale is for the Hop heads. We hope to make some new beers soon.

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Who are the guests of the brewery and the resort? Where are they coming from and how do they find you?

A lot of people that come here like beer — go figure.  Most tourists that come in are from the States.  We have quite a few Costa Ricans getting into the beer culture.  So they come in with a lot of curiosity, never having seen anything like this before.  The website (volcanobrewingcompany.com) is very helpful and the road signs persuade many drivers to come in and taste the brew.  The hotel sits above Lake Arenal.  The view is great.  It’s one of the best spots in the world for windsurfing/kitesurfing, so there are those types that come through. It’s a great spot to get away from the hustle bustle and relax by the pool or lake with good beer and a good plate of food.

When you’re not working, what else is there to do and see in your area of Costa Rica?

There are some great spots around here to do day trips.  There are waterfalls, river-rafting, volcanic hot springs to name a few.  I usually walk down to the lake and have a swim.  Once out in the lake, I can see the famous Arenal Volcano all the way on the other side of the lake.  It’s a sight to see.

You’re fluent in Spanish. How did you learn the language?

Butchering it for fifteen years helped me to finally not sound like an invalid.  I still learn something new every day.  I also teach English to Spanish speakers, so I know the only way to learn a language is to make a fool out of oneself and fumble through it.  Most of my students believe I can open their head and pour in the fluent English.  It takes some serious dedication if someone is not immersed in the language they desire to learn.

What are some of the more memorable trips you’ve taken on weekends or when you’re venturing outside of Costa Rica?

I enjoy visiting Isla Ometepe in Nicaragua. I stay at a permaculture farm. It’s always educational.  I want my farm to be similar.  I hiked Volcan Concepcion and ate some psychedelic seeds the last time I went.  A man played the accordion on the boat ride back to the mainland.  It was more than memorable.

What does Central America offer that maybe the U.S. doesn’t? Why should people visit?

It’s a slower, more relaxed way of life, so if you’re in a hurry, you may want to rethink things on a different time scale.  There is no daylight savings here so people aren’t thrown off kilter two times a year.  The natural environment is mind-blowing here.  There is so much life everywhere.  It’s very beautiful.  The coffee is great.  There are dozens of fruits that one might never see up north, let alone taste fresh from the tree.  I live in the mountains, but the beach is just a couple hours away so it’s easy to escape to swim in the waves and drink coconut juice for a day or two.

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