Leprechauns and Hops: How St. Patrick's Day Became a Beer Holiday

From leprechauns to green beer, St. Patrick's Day has become a holiday synonymous with beer-drinking. But how did this tradition start? We'll take a closer look at the fascinating history of St. Patrick's Day and its relationship with beer.

Leprechauns and Hops: How St. Patrick's Day Became a Beer Holiday

Many celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without knowing what they’re celebrating for - is it for leprechauns, alcohol, or something else entirely? Well, on March 17, people all around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day to honour the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death in the 5th century. But who is Saint Patrick and why is he important? 

History of St. Patrick’s Day


Image credit: Nheyob

Saint Patrick was the Patron Saint of Ireland and its national apostle. He was born in Roman Britain, but was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave when he was 16. Saint Patrick later escaped (or was released), became a priest, and went back to Ireland where he spread Christianity to the people.


Image credit: @cobalt123

Legend has it that Saint Patrick used the three leaves of a native Irish clover - the shamrock - to explain the Holy Trinity. The shamrock thus became a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day, and also a symbol of Irish nationalism.


Image credit: Amanda Marie

The March celebration started in 1601 in a Spanish colony in America, but it wasn’t until the early 18th century that many of today’s traditions were established. In fact, the colour green was only officially associated with St. Patrick’s Day in 1798 - the year of the Irish Rebellion. As the British wore red, the Irish donned their green apparels as they fought for their independence.


Image credit: Mike Boehmer

The colour green became symbolic of St. Patrick’s Day and many took to drinking green beer, wearing green, and even dyeing the Chicago River green!

St. Patrick’s Day is thus celebrated in honour of the Patron Saint, but also to celebrate Irish pride and nationalism. Many symbols and traditions reflect what the Irish stand for, including the not-so-official rituals involving the consumption of alcohol.

What’s up with St. Patrick’s Day and alcohol?


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As St. Patrick’s Day falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. During these celebrations, Lenten food and alcohol restrictions were temporarily removed, so people could freely dance, drink, and feast to their heart’s content!

Although some may use this celebratory day as an excuse to fuel their alcoholic needs, many still celebrate the day to honour Saint Patrick and the culture he helped to create. In addition, the celebration’s overabundance of food and alcoholic drinks is also a celebration of Irish pride and independence.

Types of beers associated with St. Patrick’s Day

As the years go by, the traditions of St. Patrick’s Day continue to evolve and drinking different types of Irish beer is one of them.


Image credit: @hawkersbeer

The most common type of beer you’ll see on St. Patrick’s Day is probably the Irish Stout. The Irish Stout is a dark, full-bodied beauty with a roasted malt flavour, some bitterness, and even a slight sourness. It is a classic Irish beer perfect for honouring the Saint - a quintessential choice if you will.

Another beer typically associated with St. Patrick’s Day is the Irish Red Ale - a medium-bodied ale that has a moderate caramel flavour and sweetness accompanied by fragrant toffee notes.

How to make green beer for dummies


Image credit: Patrick Fore

Green beer is perhaps the most unique highlight of the celebration, as its strikingly green colour is enough to raise some eyebrows. So what is it that makes green beer, well, green? The answer is actually more simple than you’d think - it’s just plain ol’ green food colouring! 

Yup, all you need for making green beer is a light-coloured brew - such as an Irish Pale Ale or Pilsner - and some green food colouring. Simple, right? Just be sure to use liquid food colouring and not gel as the latter would not mix well.

Now that you know all about St. Patrick’s Day and how to make your own green beer, you can stock up on beers here in preparation for the grand celebration!



Leprechauns and Hops: How St. Patrick's Day Became a Beer Holiday

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