11 March 2008

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Ed Wank geeks up the classic Black and Tan

With St. Patrick's Day quickly approaching (and the Beer Geek's St. Patrick's Day at Deano's Vino approaching even more quickly), it seemed like a good time to look at other traditions commonly associated with St. Patrick's Day and how we can geek them up a bit. Guest blogger Ed Wank takes a look at how a beer geek can get their black & tan on...

Greetings, fellow Beer Geeks! Wank here from ‘The Wank & O’Brien Show’, mornings on 97.1 HANK-FM. Listeners of the show or readers of the sadly-now-defunct ‘Indy Men’s Magazine’ might’ve noticed that I’m a micro/craft/import beer geek myself, hence my sudden appearance on the site as a guest blogger.

With Saint Paddy’s day mere moments away, and as if you NEEDED another excuse to quaff a pint, might I suggest a spin on the classic Black & Tan? The basic model is, for my money, one of the finest inventions ever to come out of, er, Britain. It’s not an Irish delicacy, although I’d consider it something of a sacrilege to float any other dark beer besides Guinness on top of a pale or bitter draw.

The name itself has been applied to coonhounds and Irish paramilitary troops from the early part of the 20th century, but most Yanks apply the moniker to a draught of Harp or Bass Ale with Ireland’s most famous stout drizzled atop to cascade gently down into the paler brew. Physics and appearance are not congruous in the Black and Tan – dark stout is, of course, in reality less dense that the lighter draw that lies beneath, hence the division of color in the middle of the pint.

For years I’d ordered Bass on the bottom and Guinness on top, since the Ale gave my personal palate a more satisfying finish than Harp. A few months back on a winter night at Binkley’s, a new inspiration suddenly struck. My tastebuds couldn’t make up their minds between a creamy Guinness or a snappy, Cascade-crisp Sierra Nevada. So I ordered a Sierra and Guinness Black and Tan.

The barmaid’s reaction belied the fact that I’d not been the first to propose this blend. The result was decent, but still a little thin on the finish. My second order put a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale in the lower half of the glass. Boom! This one ranked a ten on a scale of one through five. Further experimentations have led me to drop Three Floyd’s Alpha Kings (thank, you Munster, Indiana!) and Delaware’s Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA below the most famous of the Emerald Isles, both equally tasty experiments.

The results of layering the world’s most famous stout over any of these burly US micro-ales is downright symphonic: the gentle, almost mocha-tinged notes of the stout giving way to a crescendo of carbonation, hops, bitterness and body. Of all the combinations, though, the most satisfying had to be my second order: Kalamazoo’s Two Hearted with Vitamin G drizzled on top. My requested 60-40 mix of Michigan to Ireland made for the perfect Americanization of a drink from across the pond. Good medicine to steel oneself against an onslaught of snakes. Cheers!


  1. Well thank you for this.. you just made my St. Patricks shopping list that much more expensive..:-D That actually sounds pretty good and being that Alpha King and Two Hearted rank near the top of my personal favorites, I will definitely be checking this concoction out.
    Have a great St. Patrick's everyone!

  2. i made a super bitter double ipa that was nigh undrinkable, but i tried a black and tan with guiness on top and voila, it was pretty darned good.

  3. His name is ED WANK! That's hilarious! Does he have a mate called Dicky Daterape?

  4. I made a black and tan with 90 min at the bottom, and it was Glorious!

  5. Actually, I think that's just his name.

  6. Well based on this I did go out and buy some Guiness, Alpha King and Two Hearted. I think I prefer the Alpha King, but both make tremendously good black and tans. I have a case of Hop Slam and I have a curiousity to see what that would be like.. just not sure if I want to defile it by mixing. If I do, I will let you know how it turns out. :-D