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Duffy's
Duffy's
Photo: Facebook

Green Beer's Murky Origins; Plus, Where to Drink It

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Duffy's
| Photo: Facebook

St. Patrick's Day is almost upon us. A day to celebrate the man who drove those pagan snakes out of Ireland with his message of Christianity. A day where Irish Americans show their pride with parades, and feasts, and music, and...green beer? Yes, for the people who don goofy green hats and "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirts and wear green beads hanging from their necks, green beer is a March 17 must. But where did green beer come from? Eater surveyed local bartenders and pub owners to get their take on the custom, and one thing is certain: green beer is definitely an American thing. But where and how did it start?

"I would imagine New York. That would be my guess," Paschal McMahon, manager of Irish Channel, said of green beer's origins. "I worked in New York and everybody drank green beer for years and years and years." Other bartenders are convinced it's a Boston thing.

"I'm going to blame some college kid who put green dye in the beer to look cool," said Jason Kazaitis, a bartender at Nanny O'Brien's.

"The green signifies the Irish shamrock," said Jody Taylor, owner of The Black Rooster. Taylor remembers many DC pubs in the 1970s who served up the dyed elixir, but due to problems with green-stained draft beer lines and bartender's hands, the trend has fallen off, he said.

Greg Meehan, a patron at Murphy's Grand Irish Pub in Alexandria, also sees a tie to Ireland in the custom. The Irish "drop a shamrock into their beer or whiskey and drink it down" for luck after special events, such as a horse race, parade or even "a good fight at the bar," Meehan said. "At least that is what I've heard."

Mark McElkerney, general manager at RiRa Irish Pub, said the green probably symbolized Ireland's lush countryside, but he added, "We would never serve green beer at an Irish pub. It is an insult...But we are serving black beer."

The Dubliner and Sixth Engine's Gavin Coleman has a more cynical take on the tradition. "It's a good reason to sell cheap beer," he said; his haunts will not be serving the liquid. In fact, his family owns Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub in Syracuse where there is a festival each year on the day the tanker truck brings in the green beer and a parade to celebrate it.

Colm Dillon, owner of Ireland's Four Provinces in Falls Church, could not recall any Irish pubs in the DC area ever serving green beer in his 30 years in the business. "I guess we are purists," he said. But that doesn't mean he knocks it. "There is no right way on St. Patrick's Day. It has just got to be fun."

For those who find the custom festive rather than ridiculous, here are some places to find green beer this holiday season.
—Christy Goodman


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Black Rooster

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1919 L St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 659-4431
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Irish dishes such as corned beef and cabbage and lamb stew will be among the specials on Friday and Saturday at The Black Rooster. St. Patrick's Day will feature Irish music all day.

2. Duffy's Irish Pub

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2106 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 265-3413
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The green beer began flowing Saturday, March 9 at Duffy's. The bar will open at 11 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day with a $5 cover. Bag pipers, Irish music, step dancing and other entertainment will be featured. Free t-shirts will be given to the first 300 people that come through the doors.

3. Flanagan's Harp & Fiddle

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4844 Cordell Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 951-0115
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The party begins at 9 a.m. and will continue until last call at 1 a.m. Live music from 10 a.m. to closing. After 2 p.m. there will be a $10 cover.

4. Irish Channel Restaurant & Pub

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500 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 216-0046
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Green beer available on request. Doors open at 8 a.m. There will be live Irish entertainment all day long, including Irish dancing and music. Bus transport to and from the parade route will be available between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Two tented bars will be posted outside. The regular menu, which features traditional Irish fare, will be offered.

5. James Mackey's Public House

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1823 L St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-7667
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Doors open at noon. A DJ will provide music and green shots will be plentiful.

6. Kitty O'Shea's DC

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4624 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 450-5077
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The first annual St. Patrick's Day party begins at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. All weekend long the bar will feature $1 jello shots, $5 half-pitchers of green beer, $1 house shots and $5 Guinness, Smithwick's and Harp and $5 tallboys of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Foot-long hotdogs and hamburgers will be $5. Plenty of giveaways, a limerick contest and more.

7. McFadden's Restaurant & Saloon

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2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 223-2338
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The green beer has been flowing all week at McFadden's. Patrons are invited to beat the clock from 8 a.m. until noon on St. Patrick's Day. Select drinks will be 17 cents for the first hour and gradually increase in price until noon. Complimentary kegs and eggs will be served from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. irish dancers, stilt walkers and other entertainers will perform throughout the day.

8. McGinty's Public House

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911 Ellsworth Dr
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 587-1270
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Doors open at 10 a.m. Live music begins at noon with Pete Moss and the Bog band. At 6 p.m. Damion Wolfe will be upstairs and Brian Frank will perform downstairs. Celtic Rock supplied by 40 Thieves at 9 p.m. Sean Culkin School of Irish dancers will perform at 2 p.m. Traditional Irish fare will be served. There will be a $10 cover after 6 p.m.

9. Murphy's

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713 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Doors open at 9 a.m. for breakfast on St. Patrick's morning, but the party has been in full swing for a week. Live music begins at 10 a.m. with Pat Carroll downstairs and Rocky upstairs. In the evening, Ronan will be downstairs and the Havers will be upstairs. The Boyle School of Irish Dance will perform at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

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1. The Black Rooster

1919 L St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Irish dishes such as corned beef and cabbage and lamb stew will be among the specials on Friday and Saturday at The Black Rooster. St. Patrick's Day will feature Irish music all day.
1919 L St NW
Washington, DC 20036

2. Duffy's Irish Pub

2106 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
The green beer began flowing Saturday, March 9 at Duffy's. The bar will open at 11 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day with a $5 cover. Bag pipers, Irish music, step dancing and other entertainment will be featured. Free t-shirts will be given to the first 300 people that come through the doors.
2106 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

3. Flanagan's Harp & Fiddle

4844 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814
The party begins at 9 a.m. and will continue until last call at 1 a.m. Live music from 10 a.m. to closing. After 2 p.m. there will be a $10 cover.
4844 Cordell Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814

4. Irish Channel Restaurant & Pub

500 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Green beer available on request. Doors open at 8 a.m. There will be live Irish entertainment all day long, including Irish dancing and music. Bus transport to and from the parade route will be available between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Two tented bars will be posted outside. The regular menu, which features traditional Irish fare, will be offered.
500 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001

5. James Mackey's Public House

1823 L St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Doors open at noon. A DJ will provide music and green shots will be plentiful.
1823 L St NW
Washington, DC 20036

6. Kitty O'Shea's DC

4624 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20016
The first annual St. Patrick's Day party begins at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. All weekend long the bar will feature $1 jello shots, $5 half-pitchers of green beer, $1 house shots and $5 Guinness, Smithwick's and Harp and $5 tallboys of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Foot-long hotdogs and hamburgers will be $5. Plenty of giveaways, a limerick contest and more.
4624 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016

7. McFadden's Restaurant & Saloon

2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037
The green beer has been flowing all week at McFadden's. Patrons are invited to beat the clock from 8 a.m. until noon on St. Patrick's Day. Select drinks will be 17 cents for the first hour and gradually increase in price until noon. Complimentary kegs and eggs will be served from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. irish dancers, stilt walkers and other entertainers will perform throughout the day.
2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037

8. McGinty's Public House

911 Ellsworth Dr, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Doors open at 10 a.m. Live music begins at noon with Pete Moss and the Bog band. At 6 p.m. Damion Wolfe will be upstairs and Brian Frank will perform downstairs. Celtic Rock supplied by 40 Thieves at 9 p.m. Sean Culkin School of Irish dancers will perform at 2 p.m. Traditional Irish fare will be served. There will be a $10 cover after 6 p.m.
911 Ellsworth Dr
Silver Spring, MD 20910

9. Murphy's

713 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Doors open at 9 a.m. for breakfast on St. Patrick's morning, but the party has been in full swing for a week. Live music begins at 10 a.m. with Pat Carroll downstairs and Rocky upstairs. In the evening, Ronan will be downstairs and the Havers will be upstairs. The Boyle School of Irish Dance will perform at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
713 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

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