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What is Green Beer?

3 reasons why you don’t want to drink that green beer on St. Patrick’s Day

It’s that time of year again. Time for St. Patty’s Day celebrations. For many alcoholics, the holiday may leave you feeling left out as friends celebrate the long-standing tradition of guzzling down green beer. Yes, you read that right. Green beer. If you are wondering, “what is green beer?” We do not blame you. This drink is synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day, as it is inspired by its theme color. However, as festive as this seems, we wanted to share more about how this drink is made and why it is extra dangerous to drink.


How Do They Make Green Beer?

Green beer is a term brewers still use today to describe beer that’s “too young” or “green.” While many people drink green beer for St. Patrick’s Day, this drink is not an Irish tradition but rather an American-born innovation that requires a lot of moxie and food coloring. While the exact origins of this drink are unknown, green beer is credited to Professor Thomas H. Curtin, a physician who made green-colored beer for his clubhouse in New York.

By the 1950s, green beer was a mainstream symbol of a holiday that was becoming less Irish and more American. The tradition spread across the nation, and bartenders were quick to hop on the bandwagon and add green beers to their menus. Eventually, the drink became international, and the Irish were still (ironically) being introduced to the drink made in their honor as late as 1985.1

However, green beer did not just obtain its unique appearance from food coloring. It was green because it was not fermented enough. This became a major problem in the late 1800s and 1910s, as the drink was found to be heavy on the stomach. This was the result of drinking beer that was not aged properly, causing it to ferment in the stomach. While the beer brewing process is different nowadays, the dangers of consuming excessive alcohol – especially on the holidays – remain the same.


Is Drinking Green Beer Safe?

Although nowadays you are unlikely to consume copious amounts of improperly fermented alcohol, green beer still presents various dangers.


Reactions to food coloring

A doctor created the green beer that is often associated with St. Patty’s Day back in 1914 in the Bronx, New York. Dr. Thomas Curtin was a coroner's physician and eye surgeon who first colored the beer for a St. Patty's party at the Schnerer Club of Morrisania in New York. But little did doctors know at the time that artificial food coloring is linked to various health problems, including hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and tumor growth. Because of these health concerns, many companies took notice. Though today some manufacturers are opting for more natural dyes, many are still dumping toxic colorings into processed foods.


Life-threatening food dyes

Green beer contains some of the worst food dyes, according to the Food Freedom Network. Some of the food coloring in beer may include dyes like Blue #1 (Brilliant Blue), Blue #2 (Indigo Carmine), Green #3 (Fast Green), Yellow #5 (Tartrazine), and/or Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow). You have probably seen these on the back of food labels. These dyes can cause kidney tumors, bladder problems, and behavioral health effects in children. Aside from the alcoholic content in beer that can affect your mobility and nervous system, the food dyes that are mixed in will not do you any good either.


Problems with bowel movements

You may have problems with your stool. It is never an easy thing to talk or write about, but if you are drinking more than a moderate amount, you might experience some discomfort with bowel movements. Before you drink that green beer, think about what you are putting into your body. The food’s dyes aren’t easily absorbed into the body. Before they reach the large intestine, they have the potential to draw water into the bowels.


Increased likelihood of overconsuming alcohol

Excessive drinking is common on holidays, in general, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. Not only does the holiday itself encourage bar hopping and heavy drinking, but specialty drinks like green beer also further encourage alcohol consumption. As a result, a major risk of green St. Patrick's Day beer is drinking too much.

Otherwise referred to as binge drinking, drinking an excessive amount of alcohol within a brief period can lead to various problems, including:

  • Increased risk of injuries, such as car crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
  • Increased risk of violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) in pregnant women.

Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to impaired judgment, heavy sedation, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, blackouts, and alcohol poisoning. With this in mind, we challenge you to enjoy a sober St. Patrick’s Day this year.

If you find that you struggle to control how much alcohol you drink, even when you tell yourself you are only going to have one, you might have a more severe problem. Our Banyan rehab locations offer numerous services that can support your recovery from alcohol abuse, including medical alcohol detox and aftercare support to encourage long-term abstinence.


Get Addiction Recovery Care Today

Now that you have a better idea of what green beer is, you will think twice before kicking back one too many on St. Patrick’s Day. Additionally, if you find yourself unable to control how much you drink or turning to alcohol to cope with mental illness, stress, or other struggles, we are here for you.


With numerous addiction treatment facilities across the nation, Banyan Treatment Centers are highly experienced and qualified to help you get sober. For more information about our alcohol addiction treatment and other services, call us at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information, and we will reach out to you.



  1. The Courier - Green beer gimmick goes down smoothly in Ireland


Related Reading:

The Connection Between College Binge Drinking and Eating Disorders

How to Stop Binge Drinking

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
What is Green Beer?
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