17 March 2008

St. Patrick's Day. Quality over Quantity.

Maybe not too much?

St. Patrick's Day - The Chicago River

Guinness and Harp beer from Ireland

Though plenty of unfortunate things happen when Americans show our love for the Irish, one offense truly stands out.

Perhaps the worst thing we've done about St. Patrick's Day is to put green food coloring in bad beer. Thomas Dalldorf, editor and publisher of Celebrator Beer News, agrees. He says, “The Irish think we're absolutely foolish for doing that.”

There are parades and songs and the chance to dust off that clover-green turtleneck you'd never wear otherwise. But let's face it: Beer plays a big role — a defining role — in how we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The prevailing theory is that the day might, just might, have something more to do with getting plastered than with the originally religious overtones of honoring the Emerald Isle's patron saint. I'd prefer to think maybe it's just because we don't know better.

There is something I find quite tasteful and Most Excellent, and that is the yearly tradition of dyeing the Chicago River every St. Patrick's Day.

A modern day miracle occurs each year as part of the St. Patrick's Day Parade celebration when the Chicago River turns an incredible shade of Irish green. This spectacular transformation ranks right up there with the parting of the sea by Moses and the Pyramids of Egypt.

For over 40 years, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers turn the Chicago River green for the St. Patrick's Day Parade celebration. One would ask how this is different from the rest of the year when the river is always a murky shade of green. The difference is both significant and breathtaking because the color green is identical to the greens of Ireland from where it got its name The Emerald Isle.

In 1961 Stephen Bailey was approached by a plumber who was wearing some white coveralls, they knew this only because they could see some of the original color. These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the coveralls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect color green!

Yet, we are not all in Chicago to view this beautiful creation, and many of us will still drink until leprechauns fly. Please remember that it is sometimes quality over quantity. Drink responsibly.

Dyeing the Chicago River Green, (above & below)

The finished product