The Black & Tan is a peculiar thing, if you stop (pounding draught Guinness long enough) to think about it. For one thing, it’s the rare beer cocktail — a booze genre we’ve been pondering a lot lately. But is pouring a stout on top of an ale really so different from the sloppy, midnight mistake of refilling your pint glass with the wrong beer?
No. No, it’s not. It just has a name. So why not mix other beers? What’s stopping us from playing with the endless yin-yang possibilities of dark and light beers? Porters and Pils? Imperial Stouts and IPAs?
That’s what we asked ourselves this week when our good buds at KCRW’s “Good Food” asked us to demonstrate how to pour a Black & Tan to for their pre-Patty’s Day episode. Over the years we’ve celebrated this depraved K-hole of an excuse for a cultural holiday by making Irish-Mexican casseroles, reviewing Irish ales, and fixing an Irish Breakfast. This year we decided to get technical and perfect our pouring technique since we’ve mastered our barfing methods.
The Perfect Black & Tan
1. Tip the Tan: This insures a lack of head on the first level of beer.
2. Sip the Guinness: This helps prevent aggressive spill-over.
3. Use a spoon: Choose the biggest you got, turn it over, and gently raise it as you pour.
After mastering the basics, we moved on to a more advanced pursuit: the variation. We wanted to make a West Coast-style Black & Tan to prove once and for all that mixing your beers doesn’t just work for the Irish tried-and-trues.
After collecting aged bottles of Cali stouts (Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Firestone Robust Porter) and fresh hop buys (Green Flash West Coast IPA, Port’s High Tide, Dogfish Head) we started playing to sublimely delicious results, only to stumble upon a fourth and final tip — OK call it an eternal Irish truth.
4. Always use Guinness.
It’s not about taste or tradition. For the home drinker’s it’s just about carbonation. You might have the freshest, creamiest California made stout, but if it doesn’t have a widget in the can to help carbonate it, it’s all a lost cause.