THE BLACK SHEEP Against All Reason: Why I Moved to Nosara

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(Article published in February, 2008 The Voice of Nosara)- There must be hundreds if not thousands of reasons why so many North Americans and Europeans have settled in the Nosara region.  I have often thought that those reasons would provide rich material for volumes of short stories.   My reasons for being here are a bit enigmatic, since I am not into surfing, swimming, fishing, or any other outdoor activity.  In fact, my feelings toward exercise in general correspond to those of musician/ actor Oscar Levant (1906-1972) when he said:” My idea of exercise is stumbling, and falling into a coma.”  I am not even a Sun person. I live for the shade.  Back in the States my ideal temperature was 76 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees centigrade).  So why would a twit like me persuade his poor wife to give up everything in Boston, pack up, and move permanently to Nosara?

Part of the reason dates back to 1989 when Helena (my wife) and I made our first trip to Costa Rica.  We fell in love with the country.  Those were the final days when Costa Rica was still sort of a secret among travelers.  Besides the pervasive beauty of the country, back then it was largely unspoiled, inexpensive, and even the Imperial tasted better.

Back in the 90’s Helena and I did quite a bit of traveling.  Whenever we were uncertain of where to go, Costa Rica was always our back-up plan.  During one of those trips, in 2000, I met a couple in San Jose who had bought property years previously in a place called Nosara. They were in the process of the big move and they seemed ecstatic. I filed away the name of the place, did some research, and resolved to visit Nosara on our next trip.  Shortly afterwards there occurred the second impetus for our big move:  the presidential election of 2000, after which I started to seriously consider moving out of the country.  So by the time we finally arrived in Nosara in 2002, we were considering buying property.  For some reason at the last moment I changed our accommodations from one hotel to another:  John Fraser’s Hotel Playa Nosara.  It was there that while I standing on top of the rotunda (which has to have one of the best views in the area,) I had a moment of epiphany. Surrounded by this beautiful vista, I suddenly realized why I wanted to move to Nosara:  It was here that I could realize a dream that I probably couldn’t do anywhere else: to build a European pub on a commercial or semi-commercial basis.

My passion for pubs and the pub culture goes back 25 years.  Back then I was going out with a German girl named Trudi, whom I met at a pub/bar in Cambridge, MA. Trudi was responsible for my first trip to Europe, which covered parts of England, Belgium, the German Rhineland, and the Netherlands.  It was there and then that my enthusiasm for pubs started, whether it was drinking a pint of ale in a pub in London or Oxford or drinking a small glass of Kolsh in Cologne. Trudi also started me on my collection of European beer mats or deckals (coasters).  It wasn’t until a decade later that my interest in pubs moved to another level.  Helena and I bought a house in Somerville (next to Cambridge MA). 

The house was so large that we eventually decided to make it a Bed and Breakfast. However the primary reason for buying the house was that the finished basement lent itself to being a pub.  This room eventually became the European pub and had cellar doors which opened up to a patio which led to the garage which eventually became the British Ale House.  The idea behind two pubs was to be able to pub crawl without leaving the premises.  This led us to having quite a few parties, as a result of which I got to know personally certain members of the Somerville police department.   At this time I also became involved in a beer group who would put on a Real Ale festival every year.  I became acquainted with beer brewers and enthusiasts from all over Europe and the United States as well as local beer groups.  Our parties became renowned throughout the area because we had beer on tap that was not available anywhere else.  After a while, I began to feel that it was time to move this hobby to another level though I was not sure what that would be.  I did sense that this would not be possible in the Boston area. 

By the time we were looking for property in Nosara we initially had in mind building the pub on our own premises.   After seeing different properties in Pelada and Guiones we finally decided on a lot in John Fraser’s finca in a mountain across the Nosara River.  For a while, I seriously considered having the pub in the village of Nosara.  However after moving here I eventually reverted to the idea of having it on our home lot and to run it as a club with free membership. I designed the exterior of the building in a country pub mode with half-timbering.  The pub would have two rooms, the first of which would be a British room complete with a English style bar.  The second room would be “the Continental European Room” with German style long tables and paraphernalia from such countries as Germany, Belgium, and the Czech Republic.  As for the name of the pub, “Black Sheep” appealed to me because of the uniqueness of the place in the area and also struck a chord with me concerning my personal family history.  I was surprised to find how many of our patrons identified with the name as well.

From the very beginning my target market was the American and European community in the area.  At first, most of the people who frequented the bar, thanks to Gunter, were German speaking.  Then as word slowly spread we gradually began to have more and more Americans frequenting the place.  In the first few months it seemed that the majority of our patrons were over the age of 35 and the usual closing time was 10pm.  I had always hoped for more diversity in ages as well as backgrounds.  Then on one eventful evening, when our bartender had already left, car after car began arriving in the parking lot.  Out of the cars came Matt and Joellen of “Blew Dogs” followed by the younger surfer element of the American Beach Project.  From this core group came “the Usual Suspects” and others of our beloved regulars. Besides this group of young gringos we also became acquainted with a young and lively group of Ticos from San Jose who were the most enthusiastic, yet well behaved, group of partiers I have ever seen.

We noticed that such events as our New Years Eve party, our 1st Anniversary party, and our St. Patrick’s Day celebration attracted more and more people.  From the beginning, I had wondered if a European pub would catch on in tropical Nosara, but at the first of these events, when I could no longer see the bar due to the thirsty mob in the British room, I began to realize that my dream was coming true

A year later at our 2nd New Years Eve party, with over 200 people mulling around, with a long line forming outside the pub, with young girls wearing high heels and fashionable sexy outfits that would seem more appropriate at the Hotel Harmony, with all assortments of drinker types, with fireworks suddenly cascading over the pub, with the sound of different languages and accents ringing in my ears, I shook my head, shut my eyes, and thought “But it was only a hobby—what went wrong?”

“Although they are still taking reservation for small groups of people at The Black Sheep (8928-5752), the Pub is officially now for sale. Joe and Helena decided it´s time to move to San Ramón to continue their lifes journey in cooler temperature.  Whether or not they rebuild another pub is to be determined,  but rest assured, no matter what, they will have good beer to share with friends, and beer-punk-grandpa will continue garnering the best craft beer in Costa Rica.