Weekly Therapy: The Black & Tan

Beer cocktails – concoctions that mix two different beers or even beer with a variety of spirits – have recently been touted as a good marketing tool in U.S. bars that otherwise pay little attention to beer as a beverage with taste.

We generally leave it to others to discuss the “joy” of mixing vodka, gin, tequila, cranberry juice and beer (yes, there’s a bar that puts all those in the same glass). After all, brewers worked hard to produce a drink that can be appreciated on its own. But the fact is that blending two beers together to produce something different – and this may take place in the brewery itself or wherever you are enjoying beer – is hardly new.

StoutThe best known mix is a Black and Tan or Half-and-Half, and whether these are the same or different depends on where you order them. With since everybody is thinking about St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, it seems like a good time to review the basics:

– You may use any brand stout or lighter colored ale or lager to make a Black and Tan (many brewpubs do this with house beers), but most patrons of Irish theme pubs in the United States think in terms of Guinness Stout and either Bass ale or Harp lager.

– The layering of a Black and Tan – that is the dark stout floating above the lighter beer – is said to be common only in American bars. When you begin drinking the beers will mix anyway, so some places choose to let them mix as they are poured.

– It is easier to produce a layered Black and Tan if the stout is dispensed from the special spouts use by Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish as well as those used in some American brewpubs for their own stouts. Also if the stout is pushed with nitrogen. You begin by filling half the glass with the ale or lager. Next, slow the control on the spout tap and pour the stout slowly over the back of a spoon (Guinness even makes a decorative spoon just for this purpose). The stout will remain on top.

The name itself does not come from the use of a black beer and something lighter. It is derived from a political reference to the black and khaki military uniforms worn by the special auxiliary force – “The Black and Tans” – who were brought in to Ireland fight the Irish nationalists in 1920.

One Reply to “Weekly Therapy: The Black & Tan”

  1. I’m wondering what other variations anybody else has tried with American brews. I’ve tried a number of combinations. My current favorite pairs Magic Hat #9 with Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout.

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