cbc column

St. Patrick’s day is approaching.  Can I tempt you to drink something other than green beer?

I mean hey, if you're really into green beer, then by all means, drink up.  I hear they'll be serving it at the Blarney Stone.

For me though, food colouring added to beer doesn’t enhance my drinking experience, especially as it is generally added to macro lagers.  I would rather drink flavourful beer!  I find the idea of “drowning the shamrock” for luck, where a clover is added to beer or whisky and the whole thing downed, shamrock and all, a lot more palatable way to put some green in my beer to celebrate the day.

Afterall, green beer is not an Irish tradition. 

So where did green beer come from?  Who thought that it would be a good idea to slip food colouring into beer? 

The earliest reference I found to the drinking of green beer is a newspaper articlefrom 1914 about a New York social club serving green beer at a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, using blue dye to attain the desired hue. 

Then there’s Green beer day - a Miami University tradition dating back to 1952.  Not officially sanctioned by the University, it is held the Thursday before Spring Break and involves students drinking green beer all day long. 

As for where the colour green and excessive drinking come from, this theory certainly seems plausible:

"Saint Patrick was said to use a three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity and thus, the green shamrock came to symbolize the holiday. Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461, and it became customary to commemorate his death on March 17, thereafter. Since the 1600’s, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland as a day of feast; but with St. Patrick’s Day falling in the middle of Lent, a period of fasting before Easter, it became the only day when the Lenten restrictions on alcohol and food were lifted."

My suggestions for what to drink instead of green beer are dry Irish stouts (light bodied and oh so drinkable) and Irish red ales (well balanced with a dry finish).  You can even get some of these on nitro in Vancouver.  Some of the places in Vancouver where you can find a nitro tap are: Alibi Room, Off the Rail, Main Street Brewing, 12 Kings, St. Augustine's, Parallel 49.

For those who haven’t tried a beer on nitro yet, I strongly suggest you get out and do it!  Replacing most of the CO2 with nitrogen makes for a very creamy beer with an incredible head. And the cascading effect is a joy to watch. 

Guinness (that Irish brewery famous the world over for their creamy stout) engineered a widget to allow nitrogenated beer to be sold in a can, for which they deserve to be one of the beers most closely associated with St. Patrick's Day.  If you'll be out and about on St. Patrick's day, let's say at an Irish pub, you can't go wrong ordering Guinness. 

If you're looking for other options, though, here are a few:

1.  Bottles from the liquor store to drink at home: 

Innis & Gunn – Irish Whiskey finish seasonal beer.  Ireland is known for its stouts and Scotland for its whisky.  Innis & Gunn turned the two nations on their heads and made a stout from Scottish malts and then aged the brew over oak infused Irish whiskey.  The result?  A smooth, slightly sweet stout with rich oak notes and a creamy mouthfeel.  They even came up with an Irish stew recipe using the beer.

Parallel 49 N2 Milk Stout - Nitrogenated beer available in a bottle!  Available in six-packs at the brewery and liquor stores.  Remember to pour vigourously at a 180 degree angle (i.e. upside down) for best results.  Often available at the brewery on their nitro tap.

Old Yale Screaming Banshee Irish Cream ale - This is a brand new brew from award-winning Old Yale.  Irish cream flavour gives this stout a smooth, defined sweetness.  They say it pairs well with a hearty meal or is even better drizzled over ice cream.  Available in 650 ml bottles.

2.  Available fresh on tap at local breweries:

Off the Rail – Off the Rail is now open!  Located at 1351 Adanac Street, they’re serving up tasters and growler fills of a large line-up of beers.  Their red ale is styled after Irish red ales.  They also have an Irish pub beer on tap that reminds brewmaster Steve of the beers he would drink in pubs in Ireland. 

Main Street Brewing will be pouring dry Irish stout, both on nitro and on cask. 

Yaletown brewpub will also have an Irish stout on tap.

3.  St. Patrick’s day craft beer celebrations:

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the day, why not join in on Vancouver Craft Beer Week’s satellite event: A very VCBW celebration of questionable Irish heritage at the Maritime Labour Centre on March 14th.

25+ craft breweries will be pouring samples of their beers from 6 – 11 p.m.  $49 gets you in the door, a taster glass, entertainment by the Railtown Prophets and all of your beer samples.


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