Did You Know That the First Green Beer Was Made with a Mildly Poisonous Laundry Whitener?

‘One drop of wash blue in a certain quantity of beer’ was the original formula for green beer

Flickr/Indi Samarajiva

The role of the medical professional was more lax back then. (Photo Modified: Flickr/Indi Samarajiva)

Green beer may a ubiquitous part of contemporary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but that means someone had to invent the first-ever green beer — and it turns out that the first version that used an identified colorant, created 101 years ago, was a little less than appetizing.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the first green beer was created by a doctor named Thomas Hayes Curtain, who relied on a drop of something called “wash blue,” described as “an iron powder solution embedded with a dye [which] was once used to make dingy whites bright again.”

Ingested in the right quantity, wash blue would have certainly poisoned the drinker, but a newspaper from the era described the diluted formula as “one drop of wash blue in a certain quantity of beer.”

As Vox points out, there are records indicating an even earlier green beer from around 1910 in Spokane, Washington, but no one ever figured out how the bartender did it. 

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