Green Beer


Early in Against the Day, the young Franz Ferdinand is hanging out in Chicago for the World’s Fair. Greenhorn private security agent Lew Basnight is tasked with protecting the Archduke, whose mostly interested in hunting down “ladies of flagrant repute.” One night, F.F. gives his handlers the slip. Lew goes looking for him. Page 47:

After a lengthy search including obvious favorites like the Silver Dollar and Everleigh House, Lew found the Archduke at last in the Boll Weevil Lounge, a Negro bar down on South State in the Thirties, the heart of the vaudeville and black entertainment district in those days, hollering his way into an evening which promised at least a troublesome moment or two. Barrelhouse piano, green beer, a couple of pool tables, girls in rooms upstairs, smoke from two- for-a-penny cigars. “Squalid!” screamed the Archduke. “I love it!”

Why is the beer at the Boll Weevil lounge green? We know green beer as a St Patrick’s Day gimmick, but a) there’s no indication this is St Patrick’s Day; b) green beer for St Pat’s didn’t become a thing until the 20th century; and c) the Boll Weevil Lounge doesn’t sound like it attracts the most Irish clientele.

More likely the beer is green not in its hue, but its age. Green beer can refer to beer that has not been sufficiently aged, and still has some ‘green’ flavours. This usage is still around, but it seems it may have been more common around the time of AtD. The lagers that were beginning to establish a stranglehold at the time would have required two to four weeks of “lagering” to be at their best. Presumably a brewery could save money by selling dodgy beer that hadn’t gone through this lagering period (although I haven’t found any source confirming that this actually happened). So maybe Franz Ferdinand is drinking “squalid” unlagered lager.

Or MAYBE a time-travelling beer lover has brought him a weird green Belgian saison from the future. Prioritising not preventing his assassination, but just bringing a last strange delight to the Boll Weevil Lounge.DSC_8461.jpg

Operating on that latter theory, I have here a Fantôme Vertignasse. It’s a 4.5% saison “with spices” and it is undeniably green. The precise species of greenness seems to vary with the light — now transparent glowing light near-luminescent, now thick dark spinach juice. The reason for its greenness, a bit like the greenness of the Boll Weevil Lounge beer, is left to the imagination of the drinker/reader. Fantôme are famously secretive about their ingredients, although I came across rumours of woodruff or spinach juice.

It tastes like a green Zooper Dooper (apparently the worst of Zooper Dooper flavours) on acid. Lime, aniseed, mint, green tea, peppery, herbal, perfumed, with Fantôme’s famously complex and unusual saison yeast funk whipping all the spice and fruit and weirdness into line. Fascinating, but it got a bit cloying after more than one glass. Sure isn’t squalid though. Maybe Franz had the dodgy lager after all.

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