Green Beer Isn’t the Enemy – Bad Green Beer Is

Green Beer Isn’t the Enemy – Bad Green Beer Is

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

St. Patrick’s Day – we all love the green of the costumes and most of us love the bagpipes, at least for a day. The beer…the whiskey….we can all get behind those, but then again the green beer thing is a deal breaker for some people. Green beer is a dividing line for many in the craft beer crowd, but it shouldn’t be.

Craft beer fans fall into several groups when it comes to how strong they feel about the “craft” part of craft beer. There are those that don’t care who makes the beer or what their motivation is; if it tastes good to them, they’ll buy it. Then there are those drinkers that support independent beer exclusively. You’re dead to them if you are associated with AB-InBev or another corporate brewer. Money that goes to support mega-beer and their efforts to suppress craft beer mean that they will only drink beers that fall into that distinct group of “craft” and “independent.”

image credit: Matt J. on Untappd

In the middle there are those groups of drinkers that enjoy only national brands, enjoy only local beer, drink what’s cheap…. different strokes for different folks. It’s mostly subjective and personal opinion, but sometimes people just get things wrong, especially when they make sweeping statements, like with green beer. I had a post recently that used a picture of green beer, and one reader seemed to believe that Indiana On Tap showing green beer was a betrayal of our claim to support craft beer. Well, it’s not.

There is plenty of mega-beer in the world that gets dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, of that there is no doubt. Take a bad beer and adulterate it with green or blue dye and it just gets worse. Chances are high that you’re asking for a bad beer experience if someone is charging you $2 for a green beer on the holiday. But if a green pint comes at a craft price, then you have to delve a bit deeper – you could be getting ripped off royally, or this could be a craft beer that happens to be green.

Plenty of craft brewers will dye their own beer green for St. Patrick’s Day, and who are we to tell that it’s wrong? A good blonde ale has a nice straw-yellow color and good flavor. Adding a bit of green food coloring isn’t going to change the flavor much, and unless the loss of classic beer color is going to ruin your experience, just go with it. It’s one day a year. It can help to sell a few beers and put money in the pocket of a brewery – isn’t that supporting craft beer? The beer is the product of the brewer, and if he/she is OK with dyeing it, then we should be too. Of course, if you can’t stomach the idea of a green beer, then OK, but don’t say it isn’t craft just because it’s green.

Even the coloring of a beer can be a craft. Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head made a beer using spirulina, an algae. The algae doesn’t add a flavor if used sparingly, but it does impart a green color to the beer. I, for one, am not ready to tell Sam that he is betraying craft beer by making a green one. In fact, the spirulina has become fairly popular in craft beers as brewers push the envelope on innovation. Flavors which we often associate with a green color can be enhanced by using a natural product that gives the beer a green tinge. That’s Ok with me if it’s OK with the brewer.

image credit: Michael K. on Untappd

Green beer can result from other things as well. Using woodruff in a Berliner weisse can turn it a light green, especially if a brewery uses a deep colored syrup or a homemade woodruff that uses a lot of the plant. Depending on the Berliner weisse and it’s level of tartness, I sometimes use a little woodruff and sometimes I use a lot. Is it bad of me to use enough woodruff to turn a Berliner green? No- some need it.

Fruits can also render a beer green, although they sometimes get some help from dyes and coloring agents. Unless you are the ultimate “to style” drinker and can’t stomach the idea of a blood orange IPA or a chocolate cherry stout, you’re probably drinking beers with fruit in them. Some of those fruits are green…. limes, kiwis, green apple (especially if using Jolly Ranchers), honeydew melon… if they add a bit of green color or if the color is helped along by using spirulina, that’s just fine.

Brew Link Brewing’s Ugly Little Spud is a green sour beer with matcha tea and kiwi. It was/is a big hit 364 days a year, so I don’t think craft drinkers should shun it on St. Patrick’s Day just because it’s green. The same goes for the Tiki Sour – Key Lime Pie from 2Toms Brewing in Fort Wayne. I’m sure there are some of those slushie beers out there that are green, but I’ve never had one. Nevertheless, my point is made. Being a green beer on St. Patrick’s Day (or any other day) doesn’t mean it’s bad – being a bad beer means it’s bad, and that can happen in any color. Sláinte!


banner image credit:  Bustle

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