How To Pour A Black And Tan For Clean-Cut Layers

The black and tan — also known as a half and half — is a pub favorite. Created by pouring a dark stout beer on top of a pale ale, much of the attraction of the drink is in its appearance. When made correctly, the lighter-colored ale lays at the bottom of the glass while the dark stout floats on top, as if there is an invisible barrier between the two brews.

It may look tricky to achieve this effect, but it's actually quite easy. All you need is a pint glass, your two beers, and a spoon. Traditionally, a black and tan is made with Bass Pale Ale and Guinness, but any pale ale and stout will work. While it may be lighter in appearance, the pale ale is denser than the stout, so it goes into the glass first. You'll need a foamy head on top, so pour the ale at a proper angle until the glass is half full.

Next, place the head of a spoon on the rim of the glass, with the rounded side facing up. The tip of the spoon should sit just above the foam head of the ale. Slowly pour the stout over the back of the spoon so that it gently falls onto the ale. If you pour too fast, or pour it in without the spoon, the stout will plunge down into the ale. Fill the stout to the top and you should have a beautiful pint.

A controversial name

Before you ask someone if they want a black and tan — or if you're ordering the drink instead of making it yourself — be mindful of the origin of its name. The British have been blending different beers together since the 17th century, and the name "black and tan" is British in origin, regardless of the use of the Irish Guinness in the drink. In 1920 and 1921, British paramilitary units were formed to subdue the rise of Irish independence, sometimes using violent and extreme means to do so. The soldiers wore tan-colored khakis and dark shirts, and were known as "black and tans." 

As a result, the term is considered offensive to the Irish, and is never used in Irish pubs. Instead, the beverage is known as a half and half, and should be ordered as such. While its name may vary, this combo is always a satisfying choice for a beer drinker, as you get the nuanced flavors of two different beers in one glass. The stout is creamy, often with nutty, coffee, and chocolate notes, while the pale ale is classically hoppy and malty. A half and half is just as nice in the summer as it is in the winter, and tastes wonderful with classic pub foods like cheese, roasted meat, burgers, and barbecue.

Playing with layers

A black and tan or half and half is arguably the most popular and well-known layered beer drink, but there are countless others. With so many different styles and flavors of beer on today's market, you can create some very unique blends in your own home bar. Try a Black and Gold, which layers Guinness on top of hard cider, or Black and Orange, a combination of pumpkin ale and a dark stout. For fans of fruity flavors, a Black and Red could involve tart raspberry or cherry lambic beer below the Guinness.

Once you get the hang of the pouring and layering technique, you'll find that it's a lot of fun creating different flavors and colors. Turning beer green is popular practice on St. Patrick's Day, and with just a few drops of food coloring in one of your brews, you can make a show-stopping green and gold layered beverage. And why stop at two layers? Ambitious bartenders may go for three or even four layers of beer in a pint glass. Just have that handy spoon ready and make sure you know each beer's density, so you can layer them in the proper order.