A black and tan is a simple and reliable combination of two beers, a classic fifty-fifty drink with stout and ale layered in equal proportions inside a pint glass. It’s just as good served on a hot summer day as it is by a fireside in the wintertime.
The recipe begins by pouring ale into the bottom half of the glass, forming a good head on top. Then layer a stout over top by slowly pouring it over an inverted spoon, causing it to build up at the top half of the glass. And that’s it—a meeting of differing densities, creating a fun-looking and fun-tasting concoction.
What's In a Black and Tan?
A classic “fifty-fifty” drink, the black and tan is a layered drink made of half pale ale and half stout. Guinness is the traditional stout of choice. A malty, creamy beer with notes of coffee and chocolate, Guinness is dark and rich in color but less dense than pale ale.
As for the ale, the traditional choice is Bass Ale (or Harper if you’re in Ireland). Whatever kind you use, make sure the ale is heavy enough to sit in the bottom underneath the Guinness, creating the two-tone effect.
The Best Glassware for a Black and Tan
You’ll likely spend more time thinking over your choices of beer than you will fretting about glassware. For the black and tan, you need a pint glass, whether that’s American, British, or Imperial.
The American pint glass (also known as a “shaker glass”) is 16 ounces and slightly wider at the mouth than at the base—it’s the simple tapered glass you’ve seen in every American bar. Common in British pubs, the nonic pint glass is recognizable for its bulge two inches from the top of the glass. The Imperial glass, with 20 ounces of capacity, is similar enough to the American pint glass and works just as well.
Tips and Tricks
The black and tan 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 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
The black and tan may be the layered beer drink these days, but in the 18th century it would have been just one of many. From fifty-fifty blends to “threads” of three, four, and even five different types of beer. As creative as those “five-threads” were, simplicity won with the black and tan.
Not everything about the black and tan has held up well, however, and depending on your location and sensibilities, you might be advised to refer to it as a half and half. Like the Irish car bomb, it is a drink name with a more-than-problematic connotation in Ireland.
Black and Tan vs. Half and Half
In the 1920s, more than 40 years after the black and tan first appeared in print, the British Parliament sent a special force of paramilitary soldiers to suppress Ireland’s independence movement. These soldiers came to be known for their black and tan uniforms of khaki trousers and dark shirts.
Use the term if you’d like—outside of Ireland, black and tan is far more common than half and half. When in Ireland, ordering a half and half is more likely to get you a good drink without offense.
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 a 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
Beer Cocktails for Leisurely Drinking
Black and Tan
8 ounces pale ale (such as Bass Ale or Harp Lager)
8 ounces stout beer (such as Guinness)
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.
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.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 23g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|