Listen up, because this might be hard for some of you to take in: green beer is garbage. It tastes funky (not the good kind) and it’s one of the most overdone marketing ploys in the business. And I haven’t even mentioned the inevitable cleanup…
Sure, my own personal hatred of green beer is probably influenced by outside factors (just writing this is giving me flashbacks to sweaty, heaving St. Patrick’s Day crowds in New York City) but I stand by what I said. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge green beer and all of its faults, so we can put it behind us and move on. Like frosted tips, side parts and popped collars, green beer has had its moment. It’s time to let it go.
Before I get absolutely inundated with hate mail, let me say this: green beer works for some venues. If a lukewarm Pilsner and some food dye is bringing in customers and putting dollars in the till, stop reading now – there’s no use fixing something that isn’t broken. “People in America look forward to the tradition of drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, just as much as they anticipate opening presents on Christmas,” says Molly Wellmann, owner of Japp’s cocktail bar and winner of our coveted Bartender-Owner of the Year award.
The doyenne of Cincinnati’s bar scene, who is much nicer than I, calls the viridescent pints “fun and expected”, and makes the case that green beer is part of a holy trifecta – along with Guinness and Irish whiskey – that is so expected at some venues, it’s practically mandatory. “Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in your favorite Irish pub or dive bar and being super “Irish” for a day is a tradition in America that’s been handed down from generation to generation. And those bars make great revenue off of the volume of people drinking in mass quantities, for long hours.”
I have no qualms with Guinness nor Irish whiskey, so I’ll leave those two out of this conversation. Wellmann is, of course, right. Green beer does have its place in society. But because I have a personal vendetta against it, I also reached out to Michael Tipps, industry veteran and co-founder of Invictus Hospitality. Tipps is more cynical and thus slightly more aligned with my own ethos. “Green beer is overkill for sure, because it’s cliché at this point.”
Instead of serving that abomination (my words, not his), Tipps recommends operators pick an Irish-related theme and use it to create an immersive atmosphere within the venue. “Using media is more powerful than a green Bud Light,” he explains, offering "Gangs of New York" and "Far and Away" as two cinematic examples.
Obviously, it’s too late to change your plans for this year- happy St. Patrick's Day, by the way!- but if you’re interested in branching out in the future, Wellmann is going be serving a Tipperary cocktail made with Irish whiskey, green chartreuse and sweet vermouth at her cocktail bar. As for Tipps, he’s thinking about an ale from McSorley’s Old Ale House, a New York City Institution. “It’s authentic, and that’s what’s been lacking."
We've also rounded up five other St. Patrick's Day cocktails that are far better than green beer.