Ireland is known as the “Emerald Isle” but that is not because it is there that the green beer we traditionally have on Saint Patrick’s Day comes from. In fact, the customary practice of having green beer on Saint Patrick’s Day did not even originate from Ireland. More likely, this is a homegrown American tradition.
In Ireland, the most widely-sold beer is Guinness, the popular brand name of an Irish dry stout brew. In every pub in Ireland, there are always multiple taps of Guinness. Worldwide, Guinness is also one of the most in demand brand. This brand of beer is very dark, almost black, and is known for its strong roast flavor which leaves a distinctive aftertaste. Aside from Guinness, there are other best selling brands of Irish beers like Smithwick’s, Ohara’s Celtic Stout, Porterhouse’s Oyster Stout, Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red, Murphy’s Irish Stout, Beamish Irish Stout, and Black Rock Irish Stout. They are all excellent beers but none of them come in green.
But how did this tradition of having green-colored beer on Saint Patrick’s Day really started? One account has it that the practice was first popularized by Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub in Tipperary Hill, Syracuse, New York, which has
been holding an annual “Green Beer Day” to kick-off the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities in the area since the early 1960s. Another account has it that the practice originated much earlier. An article at the Ellensberg Daily Record, a circa 1914 newspaper based in Washington, said that “the Palace Cafe Saloon will feature green beer on St. Patrick’s Day.” According to the story, a certain Dr. Curtin, a coroner’s physician, created the concoction by putting a drop of “wash blue” dye in an unspecified quantity of beer. Whatever the actual date of origin, the idea of having green beer on Saint Patrick’s Day caught on and became a nationwide fad. Eventually, the fad, instead of fading like most fads do, apparently took roots and evolved to become another American tradition.
So how do you make green beer? It’s really easy. For a standard-sized beer mug, just put 4 to 6 drops of green liquid food coloring, then pour the beer. You could also try blue but you could end up with a bluish green beer rather than the perfect emerald green beer. For a big pitcher, use 20 to 25 drops. Enjoy as soon as done. Don’t stir as this could make the beer taste flat. If you are partial to dark beer, you may have to add more food coloring to create the green beer effect. For Guinness, the authentic Irish brew, you may not want to try this at all since the food coloring could turn the very dark brew into something that looks like the green scum on stagnant water. While the taste will remain unchanged, the appearance may look so uninviting you won’t be happy drinking it.