The black and tan is a hearty, smooth, and rich mixture of two beers—a lighter-colored ale and a dark stout—that is as invigorating in the summer as it is over a pub table in winter.

The black and tan beer is a delightful and dependable blend of two beers, a timeless fifty-fifty beverage with stout and ale perfectly layered in a pint glass. Whether you’re sipping it on a scorching summer day or cozying up by the fireside in winter, it never fails to please.

To create this marvelous concoction, start by pouring the ale into the bottom half of the glass, ensuring a lovely foam form on top. Then, with the help of an inverted spoon, gently pour the stout over the ale, allowing it to accumulate in the top half of the glass. And voila! You have a visually appealing and deliciously satisfying drink that showcases the magic of contrasting densities.

What’s In a Black and Tan?

The black and tan beer is a timeless beverage that combines the best of both worlds. It consists of a perfect blend of pale ale and stout, creating a visually stunning layered drink. When it comes to the stout, Guinness is the go-to choice. With its malty and creamy texture, accompanied by hints of coffee and chocolate, Guinness adds a dark and flavorful element to the mix. On the other hand, for the ale component, Bass Ale (or Harper if you’re in Ireland) is the traditional option. Regardless of the brand, it’s important to choose an ale that is robust enough to settle at the bottom, allowing the Guinness to rest on top and create a beautiful two-tone effect.

Bottle of Stout Carefully Poured into Glass of Black and Tan
Image By: Simply Recipes / Sam Schick

The Best Glassware for a Black and Tan

You’ll probably spend more time pondering your beer choices than worrying about the type of glass to use. When it comes to black and tan drink, a pint glass is the way to go, whether it’s American, British, or Imperial.

The American pint glass, also known as a “shaker glass,” holds 16 ounces and has a slightly wider mouth than base. It’s the classic tapered glass you’ll find in every American bar. The nonic pint glass, commonly found in British pubs, has a distinctive bulge two inches from the top. The Imperial glass, with a capacity of 20 ounces, is quite similar to the American pint glass and works just as effectively.

Tips and Tricks 

The black and tan beer lives and dies on how well the two beers are layered. Master the slow pour over the back of a spoon and you’ll see the lighter-density, much darker stout sitting cleanly and boldly over the heavier, tan ale. 

Getting a good separation between the beers comes down to 3 key tips:

  • Pour the ale aggressively to get a good head—maybe 3 fingers tall—on top.
  • As with layered cocktails, the indirect pour is key, slowing down the stout before it reaches the ale and preventing it from plunging down into the lighter beer. The strong head on top of the ale will help with that. While there is actually a special black and tan drink spoon (bent in the middle and able to balance on the edge of the pint glass), most spoons will do the job just fine.
  • While it’s easy to find in most stores, Guinness Extra Stout will fail to separate, as its specific gravity is almost the same as the ale. It will taste great, but you certainly won’t have the beautiful layers you’re likely after. A nitro beer like Guinness Draught will almost certainly work. You can also do some research on the specific gravities of different beers; just make sure the stout is lighter than the ale.

The Black and Tan In Culture

In the 18th century, there were numerous layered beer drinks, with the black and tan drink being just one of them. From equal blends to combinations of three, four, or even five different types of beer, there were plenty of creative options. Despite the complexity of these “five-threads” drinks, simplicity prevailed with the black and tan.

However, not everything about the black and tan beer has aged well. Depending on where you are and your sensitivities, it might be better to refer to it as a half and half. Similar to the Irish car bomb, the name of this drink carries a problematic connotation in Ireland.

Black and Tan vs. Half and Half

During the 1920s, the British Parliament dispatched a specialized group of paramilitary soldiers to quell Ireland’s fight for independence, more than four decades after the black and Tan beer was first mentioned in written records. These soldiers gained recognition for their distinctive black and tan uniforms, consisting of khaki trousers and dark shirts.

Feel free to use the term if you prefer, as black and tan drink are widely recognized outside of Ireland compared to half and half. However, when in Ireland, it is advisable to order a half-and-half if you wish to enjoy a delicious beverage without causing any offense.

Drink Variations

Far be it from us to put any limits on which beers you can fifty-fifty up. Accepting that you’ll only get the layered effect if the two beers have markedly different specific gravity (density), here are some solid alternatives worth trying:

  • Black and Blue: Blue Moon topped with Guinness
  • Black and Brown: Newcastle Brown Ale topped with Guinness
  • Black and Gold: Hard cider topped with Guinness
  • Black and Red: Raspberry lambic topped with chocolate stout
  • Black and Orange: Pumpkin ale topped with a stout
Glass of Black and Tan Next to Two Bottles of Beer and a Bottle Opener
Image By: Simply Recipes / Sam Schick
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Black and Tan

Black and Tan


  • Author: Jeanine
  • Total Time: 3 mins
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1x

Description

The black and tan is a hearty, smooth, and rich mixture of two beers—a lighter-colored ale and a dark stout—that is as invigorating in the summer as it is over a pub table in winter.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces pale ale (such as Bass Ale or Harp Lager)
  • 8 ounces stout beer (such as Guinness)

Instructions

  1. Pour the pale ale:

    Pour the pale ale into a pint glass, filling it halfway. If you pour it with the perfect amount of abandon, it will form a nice head on top, which is good for layering.

  2. Pour the stout:

    Slowly pour the stout over the back of a spoon, allowing it to gradually gather on top of the ale for a layered effect. Serve.

    Bottle of Stout Carefully Poured into Glass of Black and Tan
    Image By: Simply Recipes / Sam Schick
  • Prep Time: 3 mins
  • Category: Beverage, Refreshment
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 255 kcal
  • Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 21g
  • Protein: 3g

Keywords: black and tan, black and tan beer, black and tan drink,

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