5 Things You Didn't Know About Green Beer for St. Patrick's Day

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Whether you love or hate it, when St. Patrick's Day comes around, you can be sure that green beer will be served. The tradition is not always well-regarded as some bars have used it as an opportunity to unload their low-quality suds by the barrel. However, green beer has an interesting and — dare we say — colorful history that may help you gain more respect for the festive concoction. Here are five things you might not know about green beer.

1. The tradition of drinking green beer on St. Patrick's Day didn't begin in Ireland. The colorful brew was created in the United States.

2. An MD created the first green beer: Dr. Thomas Curtin, a coroner's physician and eye surgeon, first colored beer for an annual St. Patrick's Day celebration at the Schnerer Club of Morrisania in the Bronx. In an article from The Evening Independent in 1914, the doctor remains vague about his recipe only detailing "a drop of wash blue in a certain quantity of the beer." We know it was paired with a big dinner, too.

3. According to the first volume of Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History, there's a centuries-old Irish custom known as "drowning the shamrock," in which drinkers literally add green shamrocks to their beverages on St. Patrick's Day. That could have been the great doctor's inspiration.

4. The best green beer is made with blue food coloring. Curtin used something called "wash blue," an iron powder used for whitening clothes. Today blue food coloring still yields the best results because it balances the natural yellowish hue of light beer.

5. Ignoring its reputation, some serious brewers have experimented with green beer, including Dogfish Head and New York's Captain Lawrence — both used spirulina, a blue-green algae, as the colorant.

To make your own green beer, choose a light beer, like a blonde, pale ale, or pilsner, and try a drop of green or blue food coloring at a time. Or test natural color from matcha, green plants, or candy, minding the taste imparted.

Whether you celebrate with green beer, a dark Guinness, or Irish whiskey, pair your St. Patrick's Day libations with our recipes for Irish soda bread, corned beef, dingle pies, and more.

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