WEB ONLY: The many shades of green drinking

Amadeus Smith

Bars on St. Patrick’s Day were covered in green: green streamers, green shamrock signs, green leprechaun hats, green T-shirts that read “Kiss me, I’m Irish” and, of course, green beer.

Kent area bartenders and managers have said that bars are currently mixing the green beer in-house instead of having beer distributors ship the beer already green.

Green beer doesn’t bring in green

Mike Diguido, a bar manager at Ray’s Place, said the change occurred 12 to 15 years ago. He said the bar uses nine distributors and none of them ship the beer already green. It’s not just Ray’s Place making the mixture in-house though.

“The majority of the licensed accounts are doing it in-house,” said Sandy Toma, a service worker for draft beer at Fame Beverage Company.

But bar employees aren’t only mixing it in-house: They are introducing the food coloring to each individual glass.

“The main reason is if you got anything leftover on March 18th, you’re stuck with it,” said Vince Scalera, Fame Beverage Company area supervisor for Kent.

Just a novelty

Some said the change came from a disinterest in green beer.

Dave Wies, a bartender at Zephyr, said he opened the bar last St. Patrick’s Day and only served two green beers. He said he asks customers which beer they would like instead of initially offering green beer because the beer is usually opposed by older customers.

Mike Nagy works as vice president of operation for Heritage Beverage, a beer distributing company based in Mentor. Nagy said the beer’s nostalgia has been lost over the years.

“It was a novelty effect 20 years ago,” said Nagy, a Kent State graduate. “There are so many different Europeans that are so good – you already have your Irish beers and your Irishesque, Irish-American beers, like Killian’s, that are so good.”

Ray’s Place employee Jon Siepker, for instance, said he was proud that he had never had a green beer. He said it was mainly because he didn’t care for St. Patrick’s Day.

The change is tradition

Despite claims that the change in distribution is a result of small demand, some believe green beer is a big part of the holiday.

Gus McCrae, manager at Ray’s Place, said he still sells a lot of the emerald lager on St. Patrick’s Day.

Delta Chi president Paul Schillig said although he has worked every St. Patrick’s Day for the past few years, he believes that green beer has remained one of the holiday traditions, along with Reuben sandwiches, Irish catfish in the afternoon and McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes.

“Green adds to the spirit of the thing,” Schillig said.

Pat Wentz, a Delta Chi member, said he and all the other members have a lot of traditions they try to stick to each year.

“We all do our best to wake each other up at 5 a.m. to go to the bars,” Wentz said. “If we don’t drink green beer at the bars, we make our own at home.”

Wentz added that he and his friends have been practicing for the Irish holiday for the past couple weeks.

Green means go

According to a brochure on Food and Drug Administration’s Web site, www.fda.gov, the FDA is responsible for regulating all color additives sold in the United States.

Although absolute safety of a product can’t be determined, the FDA uses a process called the color additive process. During the process, the agency “considers the composition and properties of the substance, the amount likely consumed, its probable long-term effects and various safety factors,” according to the site.

Currently, nine color additives have been certified for use in the U.S., including FD&C Green No. 3 (Dye and Lake), FD&C Blue No. 2 (Dye and Lake) and FD&C Yellow No. 5 (Dye and Lake).

The FDA made no indication that color additives, including green, yellow and blue, were unsafe when mixed with beer or any other alcoholic beverages.

Contact online correspondent Amadeus Smith at [email protected].