The Healthy Drinker Logo

Practical info for the smarter drinker

The History of Green Beer (and Other St. Patrick’s Day Traditions)

St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast to celebrate the Irish patron Saint Patrick after his death on March 17, 491 AD. A celebration of Irish culture and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, March 17 is the one day during the Lenten season that the alcohol restrictions are lifted for fasting Christians, which is one of the reasons the holiday is synonymous with drinking. 

One theory as to the origin of green beer is that it started with the Irish tradition of dropping a three or four leaf clover in a drink for good luck, but the first recorded green beer was served in New York City in 1914 at the Schnerer Club. Yes, like many famous holiday customs, green beer is most likely an American invention. A newspaper article documents the New York City club serving beer colored with a drop of wash blue dye.

Today we wear green clothes and Shamrocks and celebrate with a cold Guinness, and this isn’t far off from a traditional Irish celebration. The Irish also wear shamrocks to commemorate Saint Patrick (a symbol of the Holy Trinity) and celebrate with parades in many major cities, most notably Dublin. In the United Stat, St. Patrick’s Day parades are a celebration of the 34 million citizens who are of Irish descent. A traditional Irish celebration would conclude with a dinner of corned beef and cabbage set to traditional Irish music.

Unfortunately, a drinking holiday means more intoxicated drivers on the road and a larger police presence. If you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year, drink responsibly, assign a designated driver or utilize a service like Uber. Cheers!

Leave a Comment