(Published in Eagle News on March 16, 2011)
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: Green beer is a sin. It’s a unicorn as far as beer goes; it simply doesn’t exist.
Adding green food coloring to pancakes on St. Patrick’s Day morning is festive. Adding it to watered-down domestic beer is an abomination. I’m sure that some well-meaning soul decided to combine the green of the rolling hills of the motherland with the amazing nectar that is beer. However, only light-colored domestic beers seem to turn green, and this is where the mutation begins. If you think the point of St. Pat’s Day is to get hammered off any beer regardless of color, you deserve your hangover.
Beyond an excuse to party, we commemorate this day each year thanks to the Catholics who honor the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death. He is credited with converting the pagans to Christianity after having been an English slave in Ireland before his decision to join the priesthood.
It’s a myth that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. There were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with (they can take some of Florida’s off our hands). Serpents are often used to represent evil in literature, which is where this idea is thought to have come from.
Being Irish Catholic myself, I can tell you that it’s not only beer and the wearing of green that signify the day. Corned beef, cabbage and potatoes are a must. This constitutes the official meal of the holiday. It’s all incredibly easy to prepare. In fact my first time around in college, I specifically went out and bought a stock pot so that I wouldn’t miss out on the tradition. It’s important to mention that I existed on a diet of anything quick and easy out of a box during that period. A slice of sweet, Irish soda bread (depending on the region it comes from) is the perfect way to end supper. Of course, if you can’t or don’t want to make it yourself, your local pub is sure to have it all on tap. Be warned that an Irish joint of St. Paddy’s is going to be packed with amateurs, but if there’s music and company, it’s better than nothing.
Before you hit the pub, put these in your pocket. First, in Italian we say “salud,” in English we say “cheers,” but in Gaelic we toast with “slainte” (pronounced slan-cheh). You’ll hear a lot of “Erin go braugh” being said, meaning “Ireland forever.” Irish blessings are a dime a dozen, but a funny one to have on hand is, “May the cat eat you and may the devil eat the cat!” This is basically a wish of karma upon anyone who hurts you.
Back to what you’re really interested in. You’re at the bar, it’s your turn to order and you don’t want to look like a popped-collar-wearing-fool. What to order? The obvious and safe choice is a Guinness, but this black stout is like drinking a loaf of bread and isn’t for everyone. If you like espresso, you’ll enjoy dark beers in this family. Next in line from stouts are the caramel-like red ales, such as Smithwick’s or Killian’s Irish Red. Tend to drink Budweiser? Try Harp instead. For the non-beer drinker, Magner’s Cider tastes more like grown-up apple juice than anything else.