Green beer? With all the nonsense going on in the world right now, you can’t blame anyone for wanting to have a drink or 200. But come St. Patrick’s Day season why green beer?
Yes, I get it. For some in the US, the March holiday merely provides another reason to imbibe. It’s Irish Mardi Gras, right?
So I won’t judge you if you don on a leprechaun hat, an Irish Car Bomb Champion t-shirt and shamrock-shaped sunglasses while you stumble about and drink green beer. Even if you play “Shipping Up to Boston” for your 6,000th time that day.
But really? Green beer. You might as well be chugging back Shamrock Shakes.
Besides, there are better things to drink that are green. Some of them are Irish, even. Not to get all Joni Mitchell on you, but how they are made takes into account what’s good for the Earth.
See, a good many craft distillers, brewers and vintners are doing the green thing – their part to be environmentally friendly.
Ireland’s “Green” Glendalough Distillery
Chief(tain) among them is the Glendalough Distillery in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. That’s where, in the 6th century, St. Kevin founded a monastery. He’s on the Glendalough Distillery logo.
The company put together a promotional video featuring St. Kevin, too. It’s a bit like and earth-loving “Game of Thrones,” but without the blood and sex. Who wants to see a naked saint anyway?
As for the distillery putting sustainability practices in place, “It’s just right,” brand manager and company founder Donal O’Gallachoir said. “It is the smart and efficient way to reduce the impact of the industry and the way to set the groundwork for a thriving industry in the future.”
To that point, Glendalough Distillery uses what it calls a “continuous cover forest management system” for harvesting local wood used to make its own barrels.
O’Gallachoir explained that the distillery fells trees in a small area, usually in groups of two or three.
“This creates a clearing without damaging the forest,” he said. “For every tree we take down, we plant seven more. This sets up the success of the rare native breed of oak for the future. Nothing is clear-felled. Instead, we continually thin the gaps created by felled trees replanted in a way that supports the health of the forest for generations to come.”
Along with whiskeys, the distillery produces gin and poitín, the forebear of whiskey.
Of Course They’re Green, They’re in Ireland!
“Geraldine Kavanagh, our wild forager, sustainably forages in the Wicklow Mountains for the botanicals. This is a zero-waste process. She only uses her baskets,” O’Gallachoir said. “Geraldine sources the baskets from a friend of hers. I’m pretty sure they are made out of willow.”
Kavanaugh also leads foraging walks in the Glendalough region as part of local ecotourism efforts.
O’Gallachoir noted that the business will be increasing environmentally-conscious when it opens a new distillery.
“We’ll be looking at energy use, water use, havin a circular economy supply chain and sustainable land use,” he said. “Using locally grown organic grains will probably be first on the agenda.”
O’Gallachoir currently resides in the Chicago area. He said Glendalough beverages have been available in the United States since 2014. In the Chicago market, you can find them at Binny’s, Woodman’s SavWay Fine Wine & Spirits, Sal’s, and other fine liquor stores.
O’Gallachoir even recommended a green cocktail – a Bee’s Knees that uses Glendalough Wild Gin, honey syrup from your local beekeeper and organic lemons. This blue link takes you to the recipe.
The Greenness of North Shore Distillery
For some Chicago area green drinks, head up to North Shore Distillery in Green Oaks. Near Libertyville, North Shore is Illinois’ first craft distillery and offers an array of spirits.
On Saturday, March 14, while many who don’t know better are throwing back green beer, North Shore will be hosting an Irish American Whiskey Festival and unveiling its own American malt whiskey.
Like Glendalough over in Ireland, North Shore prides itself on its green practices.
“We are very environmentally conscious in our operations,” North Shore Distillery co-founder and co-owner Sonja Kassebaum said. “We try to be responsible with our sourcing, and use primarily organic and wild-harvested ingredients.”
North Shore Distillery also utilizes commercial composting for all its spent grains, fruits and botanicals, she said.
“In addition, in our tasting room, we compost almost all of the waste we generate, such as garnishes, fruit from juicing and so on,” Kassebaum said. “We use only compostable straws, napkins and paper towels and recycle as much as possible. On a busy night we only throw away only a very small amount of actual trash into the landfill.”
You can find North Shore items at quite a few locations in and around Chicago, including Woodman’s, Meijer and Binny’s locations.
Tasty Green Beer
While at the liquor store, feel free to peruse the beer coolers for green choices, too.
Brewmaster Brett Boyer said the Village Vintner Winery, Brewery & Restaurant in Algonquin gives the mash left as part of the brewing process to local farmers to feed livestock.
Chris Jacobsen runs Hardcore Craft Beer, which is dedicated to growing the craft beer community, particularly in the Chicago area.
“I know Sierra Nevada, Stone, and Bell’s are all eco-conscious and green,” Jacobsen said. “They aren’t locally made, but they’re also big enough to be able to have the facilities to be so focused.”
There you have it. Drink green instead of green beer. Drink responsibly. And drink at home even, given what’s going on in the world.
I’ll be at Rosie O’Hare’s Public House in East Dundee helping out on silly Saturday. If I have to take money, I’m wearing latex gloves. They carry Glendalough, but I won’t have any whiskey until I’m done with my shift. I promise.
So for feck’s sake, wash your damn hands. Cough into your sleeve instead of your hands. If I see you not doing those to my liking I will put the photos on Facebook. I promise that, too.
Note: Photos courtesy of Glendalough Distillery, North Shore Distillery and Village Vintner Winery, Brewery & Restaurant.