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Good Beer Hunting

Jul 25, 2020

I’m Michael Kiser, and you’re listening to the Good Beer Hunting podcast.

Ah, to be in the sunny mountains of Costa Rica again: travel seems like part of a future I’m not willing to get my hopes up about just yet. But surely, someday, we’ll all be back at it.

Like most of us, I haven’t been on a plane since this past March. But just prior to the lockdown, I had one of the most intense and educational travel experiences in some time. Just as we wrapped up our annual Uppers & Downers festival celebrating all things beer, spirits, coffee, and cocktails, I found myself on a flight to Costa Rica. Our destination was a tucked-away coffee farm in the mountains just outside San José.

With me were two friends: Ryan Knapp of Madcap Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Ryan Burk of Angry Orchard cider (specifically, their Innovation Cider House in Walden, New York).

Years ago, when Uppers & Downers first launched, these two collaborated to make a cider with cascara: the skin and fleshy part of the coffee fruit that’s traditionally discarded or used for fertilizer. The result was a delightful blend of fruit-forward cider and the tannic, hibiscus-like funk of the cascara.

For years, we’ve talked about this experiment becoming a real thing: a cider you can drink in a bar or buy off the shelf. A culmination of years of experimentation, relationship-building, and mutual education. And this trip was how it was all coming true. We were going to Costa Rica to source the cascara.

There’s only one farm in the country producing a food-grade cascara—a special process, all done indoors, where the fruit and skin are separated from the bean and are laid out on screens and stacked to dry into a kind of fruit leather. The organic coffee farm in question, Santa Lucia, is owned and operated by the Perez family. It was founded by the father, Ricardo Perez—who himself is a third-generation farmer—and more recently is run in cooperation with his youngest daughter, Mariana.

In this four-way discussion, we’ll talk about the history of the collaboration, the farm’s unique perspective, labor practices and equity across all three industries, and the ways in which an appreciation of each other’s crafts create a deeper meaning in the end product.

This is Ryan Burk, Ryan Knapp, and Mariana Perez. Listen in.