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As St. Patrick’s Day festivities take over the Quad-Cities this weekend, party-goers will be surrounded by green in the form of T-shirts, confetti, balloons and even green shamrocks painted on the street in downtown Davenport.

And, of course, there will be plenty of green beer flowing.

For many area establishments, green beer is a key ingredient in hosting St. Patrick’s Day bashes, but how exactly do they get beer to transform into that bright and festive hue?

Well, it depends on where you go.

On Friday and Saturday, there will be 150 kegs of green beer at a festival at the Freight House in Davenport courtesy of hosts Front Street Brewery and Dan Kelly, who owned the former Kelly’s Irish Pub & Eatery. 

Each keg of green Miller Light will be injected with green food coloring when tapped.

That’s the way Kelly handled the “green beer situation” each of the 13 years he hosted a St. Patrick’s Day festival at his restaurant/bar that closed in August. He ordered six quarts of green dye to have on hand this weekend.

“It’s an important part of the fun and celebration,” Kelly said. “Part of Irish culture involves beer and dying it green shows your enthusiasm for all things Irish.”

Ahead of the inaugural St. Patrick’s Day festival at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, general manager Shawn Loter said he knew serving green beer was “expected.”

“It’s always a tradition around town,” Loter said. “A lot of people like it and some people don’t like it. Either way, you gotta have it there.”

Loter opted not to infuse dye into kegs, saying, “What if you have all of that green beer left over?”

Instead, 16-ounce domestic bottles of beer, plastic cups and green dye will be available for patrons to make their own green brew.

In addition, Loter said the new event will offer 1,000 pounds of corned beef and cabbage.

If you want a cold green Coors Light on tap, that's been available since March 1 at Me & Billy, the bar and restaurant in downtown Davenport. Amelia Wheeler, a bartender there, said plenty of patrons have already sampled it ahead of the establishment's St. Patrick's Day party on Saturday. 

“Having it on tap heightens the mood for the big day,” she said. “It gets people excited.”

Owner Bill Collins said Me & Billy previously tried the food coloring method, but “it was too slow.”

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“We couldn’t do that way, because we’re so busy,” he said.

He ordered barrels of already-dyed beer from Fleck Sales Company, a distributor based in Eldridge, Iowa.

“We’ll do anything we can to make it more festive,” Collins said. “We want everyone to come and enjoy themselves.”

Me & Billy goes all out with St. Patrick’s Day decorations that include green chandeliers, Irish flags and glitter shamrock cutouts and a menu that features corned beef nachos and a Fat Frog, a secret cocktail recipe that Collins' daughter came across while visiting Dublin, Ireland. 

The restaurant will open at 9 a.m. Saturday in time for the St. Patrick Society Grand Parade, which will pass by its front door on 3rd Street.

Collins, who served as the parade’s grand marshal in 2011 and whose father was the grand marshal in 1992, said it’s “probably our single biggest day of the year.”

And it wouldn’t be complete with green beer.

Kelly said “just about everybody” in the Quad-Cities serves green beer in some form or another around St. Patrick’s Day. It might not change the taste, but the color "adds something special." 

“It makes it different than a normal beer on a normal Saturday afternoon,” he said. “At Christmas, you don’t get a green beer. On Valentine’s Day, you don’t get a red beer. There's really a short window for green beer." 


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).