Food & Drink

Even the Glass is Greener This St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of the Emerald Isle, we raise a toast to the greenest, most conscientious brewers in our region. Because what’s St. Patrick’s Day without green beer?

By Christian Barker

Mar 17, 2021

LIKE THE LEGEND OF THE LEPRECHAUNS or the tale of a certain holy man’s miraculous expulsion of serpents from the Emerald Isle, the yarn may be apocryphal. But the story goes that a little over a century ago, green beer was invented by a young Irish-born American physician named Dr. Thomas Hayes Curtin.

First presenting his viridescent creation during a banquet in the Bronx in 1914, the good doctor would reveal only that he’d transformed the lager’s hue with the addition of a drop of “wash blue.” Unfortunately, the substance in question turned out to be a poisonous iron powder, commonly used to bleach laundry. Perhaps Dr. Curtin, who worked as a coroner, sought slyly to guarantee his continued employment. Who knows? It’s impossible to be sure, to be sure.

As luck (of the Irish) would have it, a drizzle of food coloring long ago became the most common means of dying beer — plus lips, tongues and many a pub bathroom’s porcelain fittings — green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. But if you’d like to mark the occasion in a more organic manner this Wednesday, we have a few suggestions.

Naturally colored thanks to the chlorophyll derived from an infusion of spirulina, Monster Green Lager Beer from Singapore’s RedDot BrewHouse is the antithesis of Dr. Curtin’s hazardous concoction. Its magic ingredient, spirulina, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Some believe this algae ‘superfood’ helps reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels and allergies — and perhaps even wards off cancer. Here’s to your good health, hey?

Most of the St. Patty’s drinking options we’d like to propose, however, are not green in appearance. Instead, they’re ‘green’ in the sense of being environmentally friendly — a la our March editorial theme. Take, for instance, the beers produced by Singapore’s Crust Group. This craft brewer uses surplus bread from e-grocer Redmart and fancy French bakery Maison Kaiser to replace 30 percent of the barley and malt in their brewing process.

Last year, Singapore craft beer pioneer Brewerkz collaborated with the Singapore Public Utilities Board to create NewBrew, a beer produced using NEWater, the ‘reclaimed’ water that is purified via advanced membrane technologies and ultra-violet disinfection before being reintroduced into Singapore’s tap water system.

The island-state’s signature tipple, Tiger Beer has been pushing a green agenda for a number of years now. In 2015, its Singapore brewery became the world’s first to substantially adopt solar power, installing more than 8,000 solar panels on its roof and cutting CO2 emissions by 20 percent as a result.

Tiger also has waste treatment plants onsite to recycle water used in the brewing process, and operates a global system whereby some 86 percent of bottles are returned and may be reused up to nine times. Additionally, in response to the plight of its namesake big cat, just 4,000 of which remain alive in the wild, Tiger Beer has embarked on a multi-year global partnership with the WWF, donating millions to support the organization’s efforts in tiger conservation.

One of Tiger’s major competitors in Southeast Asia, Carlsberg is living up to its green packaging by setting a number of ambitious sustainability goals. The Danish beermaker aims to achieve zero-percent carbon emissions at its breweries by 2030, the exclusive use of electricity from renewable sources by next year, a 30 percent reduction in brewery-to-bar carbon footprint by 2030, and the halving of water usage at breweries internationally.

Further south, in Australia’s hippie-chic beachside enclave of Byron Bay, Stone & Wood brewery is holding true to its hometown’s eco-conscious values through a range of initiatives. The company donates a percentage of revenue to charity, encourages staff to engage in volunteer work, treats wastewater on site, harnesses solar power and proudly uses substantially less water and energy than is usual in beer production.

Of course, on St. Patrick’s Day, there’s nothing more authentically Irish to drink than a pint of Guinness. A pioneer of corporate social responsibility in the modern era, founder Arthur Guinness established his company in part to help fight alcoholism (no, seriously — by encouraging the people of Ireland to drink ‘healthy’ stout rather than strong spirits), paid employees 20 percent more than standard, and, along with his heirs, established a slew of social and welfare programs for staff and their families.

Guinness continues to be philanthropically active today, including giving a million dollars to Black Lives Matter last year. Furthermore, between 2015 and 2020, its corporate parent, Diageo, managed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half, reduce water use by 46 percent and use 99.5 percent recyclable packaging.

So say “Sláinte mhaith” to the planet and raise a totally woke eco-toast this St. Patrick’s Day, friends. Whether the liquid in your glass be the color of clover, amber, or the darkest cocoa tone, drinking green has never gone down smoother.

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