Tag Archives: New York City

Green beer’s dubious beginnings

Green-BeerGreen beer has become a staple of many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations all across the United States. But, who came up with the original idea and why would someone take a perfectly good beer and turn it a most unnatural shade of green? By most accounts, the story of green beer goes back to New York City 102 years ago.

In the mostly Irish neighborhoods of the New York City borough the Bronx, a coroner and toastmaster by the name Dr. Thomas Hayes Curtin – himself an Irish immigrant — debuted his invention at a social club during a St. Patrick’s Day feast. Guests at the feast were astonished and delighted at the wondrous beer before them.

“No, it wasn’t a green glass, but real beer in a regular colorless glass,” wrote syndicated columnist, Charles Henry Adams in his column New York Day by Day, March 26, 1914. “But the amber hue was gone from the brew and a deep green was there instead.”

When pressed for the detail of how he had created the deep green brew, Adams reported that Curtin was reserved in his response. He would only say that the effect was achieved by adding a single drop of “wash blue” – an iron-based wash additive used to whiten clothes – to a certain volume of beer. He did not divulge the exact amount of beer he added the toxic substance to change it green but it was presumably a large enough volume to dilute the poisonous effects of wash blue.

But, another newspaper, the Spokane Press, also made mention of a green beer in 1910. Under a headline proclaiming, “Green Beer Be Jabbers!” (be jabbers is apparently an excited swear) the newspaper relates an account of a local bar pouring green beer. But, the beer did not get its color artificially.

“It is a regular beer,” the paper reported. “Apparently it has not been colored locally. It tastes like beer and looks like paint, or rather like the deep green waves in mid-ocean with the sun striking them through.”

The article went on to say that the bartender was the only person that knew how the beer had turned green and he was not revealing the secret.

“All day he has been drawing from one of the regular taps,” the article said. “And no one has seen him dump in any arsenic.”

A comforting thought, that.

The idea of serving green beer itself may have come from an old Irish tradition called “drowning the shamrock.” Men were said to have dropped a shamrock into their whiskey after parades and special events. The custom was meant to bring good luck to the imbiber because of the holy meaning ascribed to shamrocks.

Legend has it that St. Patrick himself used the abundant shamrock as a prop to explain the concept of the holy trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost — to King Laoghaire of Ireland in the early days of the Catholic church. The holiday now celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day began as a holy fest day to honor Patrick’s death on March 17, 461. Because the feast day falls in the middle of Lent when Catholics are supposed to practice abstinence from meat and alcohol, the church lifted the restrictions giving rise to over-consumption since Lent had several weeks left.

Whether green beer began in New York or Spokane, one thing is certain, there will be plenty of green beer flowing from taps next week for St. Patrick’s Day. Though now beer is tinted green with food coloring rather than poison.









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Posted by on March 16, 2017 in Beer, Beer history


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The Beer Guy on the Road: Birreria in Manhattan

Atop a roof in Manhattan's Flatiron District sits Birreria, an oasis of great beer and superb food.

Atop a roof in Manhattan’s Flatiron District sits Birreria, an oasis of great beer and superb food.

New York City, as everyone knows, is a non-stop thrill ride of a city. From white-knuckled rides in the omnipresent New York taxi cabs to the noisy crush of humanity known as the subway, New York is a never-ending onslaught of sounds, sights, sensations and even smells. So, where do world-weary New Yorkers go when they want a bit of a respite from the rat race? Many opt for a rooftop in the Flatiron district above the insanely popular Eately Italian market and restaurant complex. At Birreria guests can settle down to a well-crafted beer and a delicious meal while enjoying the skyline of one of the world’s greatest cities.

Birreria is a collaboration on several fronts. First, the restaurant is a meeting of the minds of famed chef and television personality Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich through the group they own. the food, as one would imagine from this powerhouse duo, is superb. The menu includes a long list of Italian specialties and even a few German favorites. But, it is the marriage of of Dogfish Head Brewing Company, Baladin and Birra Del Borgo that truly stands out. The three breweries collaborated for the restaurant to brew unfiltered, unpasteurized, naturally carbonated cask ales in a 5-barrel brewing system right on the premises.

The bar boasts 20 taps with beers culled from the portfolios of the three collaborators and local New York breweries. On our visit they were pouring Other Half Brewing Short, Dark, & Handsome Stout, Baladin Nora, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, Birra del Borgo Hoppy Cat, Black IPA and Empire Brewing Amber.

The three beers produced on site are made with a process combining aspects of both Italian and American brewing methods. The beers are cask conditioned and change with the seasons, but a classic Italian mild chestnut ale named Wanda was on tap and quite delicious.

Because the rooftop is enclosed in a glass structure that resembles a greenhouse, it is open year-round providing breath-taking views of the city particularly at night when the buildings light up like glittering jewel boxes reaching for the sky. In the summer, Birreria is a welcome respite from the sweltering heat of the city and in the winter it is a toasty — thanks to the many space heaters — retreat from the Christmas crowds below.

For any beer-lover who is also interested in outstanding food and unique atmosphere, Birreria is a must-visit. But, get there early, the line at the ground-floor check-in desk grows quickly as the work day ends.

For a look inside Birreria, watch the video below.

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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Beer Restaurants


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Surprisingly refreshing beer cocktails

This is a black and tan made with Guinness (dr...

This is a black and tan made with Guinness (draught nitro can) and Bass Ale (bottled). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though beer cocktails have been around for a long time, new combinations and flavors are becoming all the rage in the cocktail-drinking world. Sure, you can still find your typical Black & Tan made with a combination of a stout and a lighter ale (Guinness and Bass Ale work spectacularly), the Snake Bite made with stout and hard cider (Guinness and Strongbow), or the Black Velvet made of stout and Champaign (Guinness and Perrier-Jouët is expensive, but oh so worth it). But, in the new age of craft beer, there are many more tasty combinations to try, some of them twists on old favorites.

One particularly refreshing beer cocktail is the shandy. A shandy is a British concoction of equal parts beer and lemonade. At the Heavy Seas Alehouse in Baltimore bartenders mix together Heavy Seas Classic Lager, homemade pomegranate lemonade, a sprig of fresh rosemary to create the Sea Shandy. Other variations of this summer refresher include the blueberry infused Blue Brew Shandy and the watermelon flavored Lemon Melon Lager.

One would not expect it, but the Germans enjoy mixing their beers with other ingredients to create unusual and refreshing flavors. One such mixture is the Diesel; half lager and half cola. Served very cold this cocktail is remarkably refreshing and the cola sweetness and fizz adds a welcome kick.  This drink is also very popular in Japan.

In New York City, Dutch restaurant and bar Vandaag creates the CB3 Sour from Rodenbach sour cherry ale, rye whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice and housemade grenadine. This variation on the whisky sour is a hit and has regulars returning again and again.

More and more bartenders are discovering the pleasures and versatility of using beer as a cocktail ingredient. As the trend continues consumers come out the winner with greater variety and new exciting drinks to imbibe.

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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Beer


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