Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Green beer’s dubious beginnings

Green-BeerGreen beer has become a staple of many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations all across the United States. But, who came up with the original idea and why would someone take a perfectly good beer and turn it a most unnatural shade of green? By most accounts, the story of green beer goes back to New York City 102 years ago.

In the mostly Irish neighborhoods of the New York City borough the Bronx, a coroner and toastmaster by the name Dr. Thomas Hayes Curtin – himself an Irish immigrant — debuted his invention at a social club during a St. Patrick’s Day feast. Guests at the feast were astonished and delighted at the wondrous beer before them.

“No, it wasn’t a green glass, but real beer in a regular colorless glass,” wrote syndicated columnist, Charles Henry Adams in his column New York Day by Day, March 26, 1914. “But the amber hue was gone from the brew and a deep green was there instead.”

When pressed for the detail of how he had created the deep green brew, Adams reported that Curtin was reserved in his response. He would only say that the effect was achieved by adding a single drop of “wash blue” – an iron-based wash additive used to whiten clothes – to a certain volume of beer. He did not divulge the exact amount of beer he added the toxic substance to change it green but it was presumably a large enough volume to dilute the poisonous effects of wash blue.

But, another newspaper, the Spokane Press, also made mention of a green beer in 1910. Under a headline proclaiming, “Green Beer Be Jabbers!” (be jabbers is apparently an excited swear) the newspaper relates an account of a local bar pouring green beer. But, the beer did not get its color artificially.

“It is a regular beer,” the paper reported. “Apparently it has not been colored locally. It tastes like beer and looks like paint, or rather like the deep green waves in mid-ocean with the sun striking them through.”

The article went on to say that the bartender was the only person that knew how the beer had turned green and he was not revealing the secret.

“All day he has been drawing from one of the regular taps,” the article said. “And no one has seen him dump in any arsenic.”

A comforting thought, that.

The idea of serving green beer itself may have come from an old Irish tradition called “drowning the shamrock.” Men were said to have dropped a shamrock into their whiskey after parades and special events. The custom was meant to bring good luck to the imbiber because of the holy meaning ascribed to shamrocks.

Legend has it that St. Patrick himself used the abundant shamrock as a prop to explain the concept of the holy trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost — to King Laoghaire of Ireland in the early days of the Catholic church. The holiday now celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day began as a holy fest day to honor Patrick’s death on March 17, 461. Because the feast day falls in the middle of Lent when Catholics are supposed to practice abstinence from meat and alcohol, the church lifted the restrictions giving rise to over-consumption since Lent had several weeks left.

Whether green beer began in New York or Spokane, one thing is certain, there will be plenty of green beer flowing from taps next week for St. Patrick’s Day. Though now beer is tinted green with food coloring rather than poison.









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Posted by on March 16, 2017 in Beer, Beer history


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Guinness launches “Give a ‘Stache” campaign

guinness_logoIt is no secret that Guinness has been and continues to be a huge part of nearly all St. Patrick Day celebrations. This year the iconic Irish brew wants to give back. See all the details in the official press release below.

Above the Upper Lip, USA (February 23, 2017) – Once a year, as the cold begins to thaw and the first hints of spring are in the air, St. Patrick’s Day comes along to give us a reason to celebrate – and especially right here, right now, it’s time we celebrate what brings us together. The Guinness brand is synonymous with this holiday, and now more than ever, it’s up to us to help start great conversations, and to show that St. Patrick’s Day can bring out the best in all of us.

It’s no secret that each pint of Guinness stout, when enjoyed slowly, leaves behind a foam mustache after the first sip. This year, the ‘Stache will be the brewer’s overarching symbol for building the bonds between us, encouraging all of us to come together, no matter our backgrounds, beliefs or political leanings. In that spirit, from now through March 19, 2017, adult beer lovers can share photos of their ‘Staches – self-grown and groomed, drawn-on, or Guinness-enhanced – on social media. For each photo tagging @GuinnessUS and using #StacheForCharity, Guinness will donate $1 (up to $100,000) to the Guinness Gives Back Fund*, which supports nonprofits that contribute to the common good in our communities.

“Let’s face it, now’s as good a time as any to raise a pint,” said Guinness Brand Director Emma Giles. “We need to reconnect with what can bring us together as family, friends, coworkers, Americans, and most basically, human beings. St. Patrick’s Day is almost here and few, if any, holidays are as unifying or as celebratory.”

The symbol of the ‘Stache will appear alongside Guinness brand activity, including at bars and restaurants, throughout the St. Patrick’s Day season. To spread the word about the good a ‘Stache can do, the brand is releasing digital content that shows people of all backgrounds sporting ‘Staches, thus turning the brand’s iconic foam into a symbol for unity. A separate video series will follow a Guinness ambassador around town, where he finds the Guinness spirit in the unlikeliest of places.

“There’s just something about the Guinness ‘Stache that makes you crack a smile,” Giles said. “What better symbol this time of year for unity, communion and giving back?”

To keep an eye on everything the Guinness brand is doing and to get in on the ‘Stache action, follow @GuinnessUS on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Whether you’re having a Guinness Draught and getting your ‘Stache, or ordering up any other Guinness beer this St. Patrick’s Day, please respect the beer and drink sensibly.

* The Guinness Gives Back Fund is a corporate donor advised fund administered by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.

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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Beer, Imports


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Who was St. Patrick?

By the end of the week everyone will be wearing green and making merry for the yearly tradition of St. Patrick’s Day. This year, the holiday falls on a Saturday, which means that the party will start Friday night and continue until Sunday. Green eggs, corned beef hash, and boiled cabbage will be consumed with unfortunately green beer. Those who are a bit more discriminating will opt for a traditional Irish brew like Guinness or Murphy’s. We’ll talk more about the beer in a bit. But first, what do you really know about St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick himself, oddly enough, was not even Irish. He was born to British aristocrats in 390 A. D. The family owned several homes and many slaves. As a boy, he had no interest in Christianity – to the chagrin of his devout family – and rarely attended services. But, when he was 16, his world took a terrible turn as he was kidnapped and forced into slavery in Ireland tending a heard of sheep. Partially to escape the horrors of slavery, Patrick turned to the religion of his parents and became a deeply-believing Christian. It was after his conversion that Patrick heard a voice in a dream instruct him to escape his bonds and return to Britain. He did and was subsequently ordained as a priest. The voice returned and commanded him to return to Ireland to bring the Christian faith to the island. On March 17, 461 A. D., Patrick died after an arduous life of beatings and ridicule and was largely forgotten by most of the Irish. But, due to his hard work, Christianity had caught on in Ireland.

In the first thousand years of Christianity, people thought to have been extremely holy were often canonized (sainted) by regional church officials. It is in this way the Patrick became St. Patrick. To this day he has never been canonized by a Pope.

In the centuries following his death, St. Patrick’s legend grew. Stories began to emerge of how he rid the Island nation of snakes and used three-leaf clovers to teach about the Holy Trinity. Lesser-known feats attributed to St. Patrick include that his ash wood walking stick that was thrust into the ground became a living tree and that he spoke to long-dead ancestors. Still, St. Patrick was considered a minor saint whose solemnity was observed primarily by European Irish only through the 16th century when it was recognized by the church and made a Holy Day of Obligation.

The holiday became known as a day of attending church and then a day of remembrance when the church lifted the Lenten restrictions forbidding the consumption of meat and alcohol. In 1903 March 17 was made a national holiday in Ireland and, thanks to banking rules, a day free from work. A few years later, James O’Mara, the same man who sponsored St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday, passed a bill that forced pubs to close on the holiday since drinking had gotten out of control. The law was not repealed until 1970.

In the meantime, St. Patrick’s Day had grown in popularity among Irish-Americans even though it is not a nationally-recognized holiday. Partiers are undeterred by this lack of status for the holiday and have celebrated it since the late eighteenth century, prior to the American Revolution. The holiday is a celebration of Irish and Irish American culture; celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, feasting, copious consumption of alcohol, religious observances, and numerous parades.

Among the alcohol consumed during the celebrations are distinctly Irish beers. Now that you have a feel for why the holiday takes place, over the next few days I will spotlight the various beers you can expect to drink this weekend. Check back daily for the stories of Guinness, Murphy’s, Harp and other Irish brews.


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