The day on which the golden brew turns green

Photo: Václav Malina

In central Europe the name Zelený čtvrtek or Green Thursday (known in English as Maundy Thursday) inspired a tradition of eating green food, such as salad and spinach. Many Czechs have embraced this practice and the sworn meat-eaters simply down their stake with a pint of green beer. The annual green beer festivities originated in Brno twelve years ago and have now spread to many parts of the country.

Photo: Václav Malina
Czechs are quite conservative about the brand of beer they drink, but on special occasions they are willing to swap their favourite brew for something special. And the idea of green beer to mark Green Thursday caught on faster than its creators at the Starobrno brewery dared to hope. Twelve years on, the green beer celebrations in Brno are big, with live music, street parties and even a Green beer tram riding around the city and selling the green brew on tap. The company’s brand manager Zdenka Mindlová recalls how the idea of green beer arose.

“Czechs have become accustomed to consuming all kinds of green foods on Green Thursday. And twelve years ago our beer masters had a brainwave –to make a special brand of beer to mark the holiday. Craft and specialty beers are quite popular and so that’s how our green beer was born.”

The city’s first green beer celebrations made headlines and in a short time the tradition of drinking green beer on Green Thursday spread to other parts of the Czech Republic. Starobrno increased its output and other breweries soon started producing Green Thursday specials of their own making. What they all have in common is their bright green colour. Zdenka Mindlová explains how beer turns green:

“The bright green colour is a combination of several factors. One is the use of a special malt which helps to achieve that colour, another is the use of certain herbs which are part of our secret recipe and the third factor is a green liquor which is added to the beer. So, all these factors together contribute to the unique colour of our green brew.”

Today Starobrno’s green beer is delivered to pubs around the country and even exported to Slovakia. Its time in the limelight is short, but on one day of the year green beer elbows out the traditional golden brews which have been at home here for years. Zdenka Mindlová says it is not hard to find a pub selling it on that particular day of the year.

“If you look at our web page or simply look for (green beer) you will find a list of all the pubs to which we deliver around the country. Usually these pubs organize their own Green Thursday celebrations. Here in Brno we make it a big event, with live music and green beer served out in the open. It is like the opening of a new season, the arrival of spring and the chance to have a beer out in the open after the long winter months is something we all enjoy.”