Beers with a Stoic: Shouldn’t the local beer vanguard be respecting beer?

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At the end of the day, facts are facts.

  • 2 + 2 = 4.
  • Dublin IS the capital of Ireland, not Tipperary.
  • Green beer, while tragic, is an entirely correctable error.

Last year for St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to renew my perennial campaign against the practice of coloring beer green, which I’ve been doing quite literally for decades. Time was when aspiring beer snobs usually agreed with me, but in 2023, you’d have thought I had suggested clubbing baby seals.

Snobbery ain’t what it used to be, and you could have knocked me over with a Donegal feather. It never dawned on me, not even once, that craft brewers anywhere would do such a thing to their beer, or that our vicinity’s most knowledgeable craft beer fans would countenance such practices.

Shame on me, I suppose. Apparently in my dotage I have not kept up with the awesomeness of those green beers as featured in Instagram selfies. Twenty years ago the vanguard would have been heaping derision on acts of desecration; now anything goes, and having paused to mull it, perhaps the widespread acceptance of green beer even by knowledgeable beer drinkers makes perfect sense.

After all, is a simple blue-dyed golden ale brewed locally that much different than a vintage white pastry sour saison stout brewed with spices used by the Inuit to cure whale blubber jerky, then filtered through salty pebbles from the Yucatan?

Actually, it is different. Given that the artificial coloring contributes nothing to the flavor, the golden ale genuinely is the more authentic representation of “beer.”

Speaking personally, the argument “but it’s fun and our customers demand it” never carried much weight with me. My job was to educate customers into learning what they want, not pandering to them. Fun lies in learning. It’s not fun to be ignorant.

Granted, perhaps this goal has become a fool’s errand at a time when St. Paddy’s Day seems to have become yet another victim of dress-up, cosplay-pretend celebration, with people stumbling around dressed like the Lucky Charms cereal leprechaun, chugging green beer and Irish Car Bomb drinks alongside platters of corned beef and cabbage, with not one of these creations having anything remotely to do with Ireland or being Irish.

It’s been a year, and here we go again. Today at Food & Dining Magazine, I explain why I’m doubling down (not dumbing down) in opposition to green-dyed beer: Erin Go Blagh 2024, a much needed St. Paddy’s Day etiquette primer.

If I’m to be honest, it never made very much sense to me that I’d choose to honor the Irish experience in America (or the Uruguayan, Eritrean or Indonesian) without learning something about the country in question. I readily concede that serious-mindedness is an innate, personalized response, because for me “fun” tends to be neither frivolous nor spontaneous, and certainly not Disneyesque.

Rather, my fun is reality-based, and this brings me to an absurdly tinted St. Patrick’s Day topic that first arose during my college daze, when it was suggested by my friends at the time that we should visit one of the local bars for the express purpose of consuming golden-colored forgettable light lager beer dosed with blue food coloring, thus rendering it green.

Have you noticed that I tend to take great pains to explain the reasons why I feel the way I do, as opposed to the ad hominem attacks that came boomeranging my way last year? I’d love for green beer to become a genuine discussion, but for some reason, it never happens.

That’s too bad. More background from last year, right here: Green with entropy? 

Let’s return full circle to the recipe for green beer. Before “craft” was a glimmer in the Brewing Association’s marketing team’s collective eyes, blue food coloring was being added to fizzy yellow beer, the same fizzy yellow beer that represented the insipid status quo, prompting a beer revolution leading eventually to what is now referred to as “craft” beer.

If “craft” beer was intended to be better, different and a higher plane of existence than fizzy yellow mass-market beer—and if it wasn’t, why make the investment to brew it?—then by extension, why embrace the very same symbol of what we’ve been fighting against all these decades?

Now everyone will forget all about it until 2025 — everyone except me. I considered letting it go this year, but here’s the thing: the more shite I get for bringing it up, the more this backlash proves that someone really needs to … well, BRING IT UP. That’s what contrarianism is all about; it rattles the orthodoxy and gets chats started. Progress often results.

In my opinion, even if my Food & Dining position constrains me from being a rabble-rouser most of the time, what the entirety of the service sector in Louisville desperately needs is some straight talk, constructive criticism, earnest dialogue, and introspection, not to mention a healthy dose of satire here and there.

Just because green beer CAN be done doesn’t necessarily mean it SHOULD be done. The same reasoning applies to numerous other “third rail” local topics, so keep those cards and letters coming, and check out the two columns linked above. By Friday, I might be running a Blue (Green?) Light special on social media unfriendings.