Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Pinching Off a Leprechaun
St. Patrick's day is approaching and I was thinking about all the customs attached to the holiday. What immediately comes to mind in this business is green beer. Love or hate the idea, putting coloring in beer can be fun and interesting, not only for the pretty green color while drinking but also the after effects.
First though, I thought about the history of the holiday's relics and how green became the defacto St. Patrick's day color. It started with the leprechaun, which is actually one of the fairies of ancient Irish mythology. He was feared because he hid from human view, but he was also revered because of his riches (pot 'o' gold). The leprechaun was later adopted by St. Patrick as a symbol of God. Like God, the leprechaun is hidden from view and has great riches for those who find Him (pot 'o' eternal life). Because the Irish believed that the leprechaun used the rich green countryside to conceal himself, the color green became associated with him as well as all things that have to do with St. Patrick and his day.
Drinking a bunch of beer also has its roots in the rituals of St. Patrick's day. There is more beer consumed in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day than there is on any other day of the year. This may be a practice carrying on St. Patrick's honoring of Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire with "poteen" an Irish beer made from potatoes. St. Patrick is also credited with bringing the art of distilling to Ireland.
As far a green beer goes, it wasn't until the Irish settled in Boston, and faced ethnic discrimination that they chose to show their Irish pride by using the color green for all things Irish. Thus began the American tradition of green beer and wearing green. On a side note, pinching people who did not wear green was a reminder that leprechauns would sneak up on those who could be seen on this day and in order to remain hidden, and avoid the leprechauns, you must hide yourself by wearing green. Or maybe it was just a good excuse to cop a feel and talk about your green underwear.
Speaking of green underwear, some people have found that drinking a lot of green beer can turn your uh, ah, fecal matter, ahem, ah, green. There is a good reason for that. One of the dyes used in green food coloring, (FDA Blue #5) when metabolized in sufficient quantities (you might have to drink a butt-load, Ha Ha) combines with bile and forms a brilliant green color. This phenomenon is harmless, and does not happen to everybody who ingest blue #5. So if you indulge in green beer this St.Patty's day and you're still crappin' brown, relax, there's nothing physically wrong with you. But maybe a better choice would be to drink a nice Irish Stout instead.
never trust The Sober Brewer