Brad Martin is a fan of St. Patrick’s Day.
He’s such a big fan that he keeps celebrating well into April.
He wears his pride on his sleeve, er, perhaps we should say on his face.
For the past five years, Martin has dyed his beard green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. His birthday is April 6, and his festive facial hair is still around by then before eventually fading out.
Martin was drinking beer at Rileyville, O’Riley and Conway’s Irish Pub’s outdoor tent, on Saturday afternoon, celebrating the holiday that has evolved from Christian feast day to a larger jamboree of beer and Irish culture.
No, nobody dyed the Rock River green like they do in Chicago. But the sun was shining and the sound of fiddles filled the outdoor tent as revelers sipped green beer in the small parking lot.
What’s the trick to producing the ubiquitous green beer that is typically only seen once a year?
Frank Agate has spent 42 years working in the beer industry, including the past 29 years with Ott Schweitzer Distributing in Milton. He walked a Gazette photographer through the relatively simple production process Thursday.
To flood the keg with green dye, Agate removes a valve from the barrel to release the carbon dioxide inside. He then pours food coloring into a tube and re-carbonates the keg. That’s all there is to it, he said.
Agate has turned beer purple, pink and red for special occasions. But he’s not a fan of colored beer, personally.
“I think it’s a horrible thing to do to a nice beer to take the CO2 out of it, then shoot it with food coloring to re-carbonate it,” he said. “But if people like to drink green beer, we’re going to make them green beer.”
At O’Riley and Conway’s on Saturday, most people had some sort of green drink in their hands. The consensus?
“It’s green,” said Stacie Krueger.
She and her husband, Bill, and daughter Brittney huddled around a small outdoor table. They planned to visit some other bars connected to Trinity Fest, the weekend celebration organized by Gray Brewing Company.
Brittney drank green wop—a mixture of different alcohols—as her dad called his green beer “more festive” than a typical lager.
In another group, Bob Huber and Rod Jones agreed there was no taste difference between green beer and regular beer. But it was more enjoyable to drink something colorful after months of gray skies and low temperatures, they said.
Martin wasn’t drinking green beer. Like Agate, he preferred an unaltered ale.
But with a green beard, nobody could accuse him of not being festive.
He mixes green, yellow and blue hair dye to make his beard concoction. If he only uses green dye, his beard turns bright blue. Maybe that mixes strangely with his gray facial hair, he said.
Because Martin’s beard remains green for weeks after St. Patrick’s Day, he’s accustomed to weird stares and occasional compliments. But his wife, Carmen, approves of the look, giving the beard clearance to return next March.
Gazette photographer Anthony Wahl contributed to this story.