Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Black & Tan

All this talk of stouts has reminded me of one of my favorite bar beverages I pull out of my beer repertoire occasionally when seeking variety: the Black & Tan. A Black & Tan is a mix of any stout or porter and a lighter ale or lager.

Many Americans know a Black & Tan as a mix of Guinness and Bass, separated for visual effect by pouring the Guinness over a teaspoon. The nitrogen carbonation (nitrogenation?) of Guinness versus the traditional carbonation of Bass allows the Guinness to perch atop the “cocktail” for the duration of the drink.

An additional twist on this beer cocktail is the Half & Half, which substitutes Harp Lager for Bass Ale. The name change is not just to differentiate the use of a Harp versus a Bass, but has specific political connotations as well. The Black & Tan were a paramilitary force used by the English to suppress the Irish independence movement. While supposedly deployed to fight the Irish Republican Army, the Black & Tans developed a reputation of harassing and assaulting civilians as well. Additionally, Bass is an English beer, while Harp is an Irish beer. In this light it’s easy to see why Irish pubgoers are not exactly lined up around the block to order a Black & Tan.

Black & Tans don’t have to come in the form of Guinness and Harp or Bass, in fact many are already premixed. Mississippi Mud, produced in Utica, NY is an all-American black and tan that doesn’t require special bartender teaspoons, or even a glass to be enjoyed. It’s certainly not the best B&T I’ve ever had, but it’s hard to resist drinking out of that widemouth “white lightning” jug. For a Midwestern example, try Gray’s Black & Tan, from Janesville, Wisconsin, another example of a premixed.

If you’ve never experience the flavor and sight of a black and tan, I suggest you order one the next time you find yourself in an Irish pub. The visual effect alone is enough to justify the purchase.

Also, I’m putting as one of the websites below, but navigate at your own peril. It made me feel like I’d had a few B&Ts when I went there.

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