The History of Green Beer, Plus Where To Get it in San Francisco

The History of Green Beer, Plus Where To Get it in San Francisco

Ahh… green beer. It’s not the result of a boozy brunch of green eggs and ham with Sam I Am. Actually, this verdant beverage has a long history. Green beer is a staple of American St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and first references to it pop up as early as 1910. A New York physician named Thomas H. Curtin is usually credited for inventing the drink around 1914. 

Green beer is created by adding blue dye, which mixes with the beer’s natural yellow, and ta-da: green. But brewers use the term differently. To them, “Green beer” is beer that’s too young and still contains acetaldehyde, which can taste bad as it’s not yet fully fermented. 

Excited to drink this festive beverage? Green beer abounds in San Francisco for St. Paddy’s. Along with the storied 174-year-old parade, the city’s pub crawls and block parties shine on St. Patrick’s Day. Check out these local events that will be serving green beer below.

Feature Photo: Courtesy of Rodnae Productions
Green beer being poured into pint glass
Photo courtesy of Patrick Fore.

San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Events

Twenty bars along Polk St. participate in this pub crawl. Actually, make that pub crawls. This party includes three crawls on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of St. Patrick’s Day Weekend. 

The afternoon of March 16 will be alive with traditional Irish music and Celtic rock at the Irish Bank — a pub that sits kitty-corner from Chinatown’s Dragon Gate on Bush St. The party continues on Sunday with more music and more beer. 

This crawl includes over five venues and 1–2 complimentary drinks, plus exclusive drink and food specials at select locations. Crawlers can also finish the night off with an afterparty featuring a live DJ or band. 

Don’t want to party on a Sunday? Royal Exchange Restaurant and Bar hosts a block party with food, music and plenty of green beer on the Friday before St. Paddy’s. Visitors can get lunch at the Royal Exchange from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., before the block officially gets shut down at 3 p.m. Check it all out on Front Street between California and Sacramento Streets, and tune in to hear local band The Wonderbread 5 play at 5 p.m. Or, cross the street and stop by Shroeder’s, a German beer hall, for a pretzel with your green beer.

From noon to late on Sunday, March 17, the United Irish Cultural Center hosts its block party featuring an all-day lineup of Irish dancing and food at the Cultural Center. Three bars, including the Emerald Pub, are participating in this party on 45th Ave. from Sloat to Wawona (just blocks from Ocean Beach).

San Francisco Irish Pubs

Not all of us have the fortitude needed for an all-day pub crawl. If you’re looking for a pint or two for St. Paddy’s, here are a few Irish bars to mark the day. They might not all have green beer, but you’ll definitely be able to find a cool glass of Guinness.

  • The Little Shamrock: Teetering on the edge of the Inner Sunset and across the street from Golden Gate Park’s Botanical Garden is this landmark pub that has backgammon and board games. The walls are filled with pictures from the bar’s 130-year history. 
  • The Plough and the Stars: A real-deal pub with Irish music or bluegrass playing nearly every night that they’re open. Stop by this spot on Clement St. for a night of pool, dancing and whiskey. 
  • Shannon Arms: Watch a game, sip your beer and shoot some pool at this cash-only dive on Taraval. 
  • Maggie McGarry’s: Sit in their indoor space for a football match (that is “soccer” football…), or enjoy a pint from their outdoor parklet. This North Beach bar is known for hosting live music, and its concerts tend to liven up the streets on weekends. 
  • Abbey Tavern: Another football bar — this time in the Inner Richmond on Geary. This two-level neighborhood joint has the best in bar games, including foosball, darts and pool, plus a good selection of beers on draft. 

Looking for more things to do in the area?

Visit our What to Do in Northern California page!

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