Go Green on March Seventeen?
Colour is important when it comes to beer. It has the ability to shape our expectations and influence our decision making. Beers are generalized, scrutinized and even marginalized based on their colour. We are all influenced by the aesthetics of beer – and there are few times where this is more evident than St. Patrick’s Day.
The Irish have given us beer styles of all hues, from lager and pale ale to their famous red ales and dry stouts; but every year come March, another colour is added to that spectrum.
The origin of ‘green beer’ is hard to pinpoint exactly, although the consensus seems to be that it’s an American invention. Not all that surprising, of course, coming from the same country that sees whole rivers dyed in celebration of Ireland’s favourite patron saint. Regardless of its roots, the tradition of green beer has spread across the globe, even as far as the Emerald Isle itself. Back in 2008, I spent St. Patrick’s Day in the heart of Dublin, at the iconic Temple Bar Pub, and even there you couldn’t escape green Carlsberg and Heineken.
Paddy’s Day is widely recognized as one of the year’s major ‘beer holidays’; though one that has had the emphasis placed on quantity rather than quality. And in all of the overdone pagentry, the food, music, dancing and outrageous imaginations of, supposedly, Irish costumery, green beer does seem appropriate.
But green beer isn’t always taken so lightheartedly. Over the past few years there has been increasing criticism in the beer drinking community regarding this practice, ranging from the ‘purist’ view that you shouldn’t contaminate your beer, to possible health risks.
In fairness, food colouring doesn’t really add all that much flavour to the beer, and the beers that pubs generally dye green are not all that full of flavour to begin with. Moreover, we consume products containing artificial colourants on daily basis. Neither argument is very convincing.
The real debate seems to form on the familiar lines of macro vs. micro; with the adulterated beer placed squarely in the macro column. But from this veiled debate there is one argument that I’m quick to agree with; drinking green beer doesn’t make your celebration of St. Patrick’s Day any more ‘authentic’. There is no right or wrong beer to drink on St. Patrick ’s Day. No matter if you’re planning to dress up faux-Irish-kitsch and make friends with everyone at the bar or not, a light-tasting, green pint can be a fun choice. But gimmicks aside, there are colourfully Irish beers, both imported and domestic, that can also be pretty fun.
This St. Patrick’s Day I’m choosing red over green, taste over tipsiness and one tradition over another in the form of Beau’s Strong Patrick Irish Red Ale. The third release in this year’s FeBREWary series is not a stranger to Ontario shelves. Brewed in tribute to one of Ireland’s most noteworthy styles, Strong Patrick is a malt forward beer with distinctive buttery-toffee notes an ever so slight roasty bitterness. It really is a perfect accompaniment to all of the best St. Patty’s Day meals like: corned beef and cabbage, Shepherd’s pie or, my personal favourite, Dublin Coddle. Aging in whiskey barrels smooths this beer out beautifully, adding a hint of vanilla, and making it extra sessionable.
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