It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, the one time of year that, whether you like it or not, green beer gets to shine. The tradition does not have the best reputation—because bars use it as a chance to unload light, watery suds by the barrel—but it's not going anywhere and we may help you gain just a bit more respect for it. As we approach green beer’s impressive 101st birthday, here are five things you might not know about this festive drink.
1. An MD created green beer as we know it. Dr. Thomas Curtin, a coroner's physician and eye surgeon, first colored beer for a St. Paddy's party at the Schnerer Club of Morrisania in the Bronx in 1914. In an article from that time, the doctor remains vague about his recipe.
2. 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.
3. The best green beer is made with blue food coloring. Curtin used something called “wash blue,” an iron powder used for whitening clothes (seems safe). Today blue food coloring still yields the best results because it balances light beer's natural yellowish hue. Obvious but not obvious.
4. Ignoring its reputation, some serious brewers have experimented with green beer, including Dogfish Head in 2005 and New York’s Captain Lawrence in 2013. Both used spriulina, a blue-green algae, as colorant.
5. Green beer isn't just for the irish. According to a study from last year, nearly half of American adults consume it. That's amazing when you consider only 12 percent actually consider themselves irish.