Perhaps the best-known Guinness blend is a Black and Tan, which,
contrary to conventional wisdom, is not very popular among the Irish.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite. In Ireland, the term “Black and Tan”
carries a negative connotation because it was a nickname for a British
paramilitary force notorious for attacking civilians during the Irish
War of Independence, 1919 to 1921.
In America, a Black and Tan doesn’t have the same stigma; actually,
it doesn’t even have the same ingredients. Here, the blend is typically
made with Guinness and Bass, an English pale ale. But if you ask for a
Black and Tan in an Irish pub, you’re more likely to get a Smithwick’s
red ale with a Guinness head—if you’re lucky.
When drinking in Irish pubs, you might do well to put “Black and
Tan” on your mental list of things not to order—right below an “Irish
Car Bomb.” (That one should be obvious.)
There may be more controversy than consensus surrounding the Black
and Tan, but the revelation relevant to our revelry is that Guinness is
compatible with many other types of beer, including pale ales (Bass),
lagers (Harp) and red ales (Smithwick’s).
Some Syracuse watering holes have used their in-“Guin”-uity to add
their own stout-plus combinations to their menus. Kitty Hoynes Irish
Pub and Restaurant, 301 W. Fayette St., being the good sports they are,
serve an “All-Irish Black and Tan.” They also pour other standard
Guinness blends such as the Half and Half (with Harp lager) and the
Black Velvet (with champagne). In addition, the area-original
concoction called “Black Magic” includes the Vermont-brewed Magic Hat
#9, a crisp, not-quite-pale ale with notes of apricot.
Tap dance: These three beers—Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s—form the basis of the black and tan phenomenon. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
Empire Brewing Company, 120 Walton St., has its own version of an
Irish-style “Black and Tan,” combining its Amber Ale and Black Magic
Stout. Empire’s stout is slightly denser than Guinness, so the
separation in the glass isn’t as stark; the components tend to mix as
you drink it.
Another blend of Empire’s stays more stratified. Brewmaster Tim
Butler recently developed a beer made from concord grapes, which he
also tops with the Black Magic stout. The deep dark brown of the stout
suspended above the reddish-purple base makes for an especially pretty
pint—much prettier than its nickname, “The Bruiser.”
CopperTop Tavern, with locations at 905 N. Main St., North Syracuse,
and 3380 Milton Ave., Camillus, pours a delicious “Chocolate-Covered
Cherry” blended beer, which combines Guinness with Samuel Adams Cherry
Wheat. CopperTop’s “Black and Blue” blend consists of Wachusett
Blueberry Ale, a Massachusetts beer, with a Guinness head. Both fruity
brews bring out the bittersweet chocolate flavor in the Guinness.
Of course, all great beer blends are the product of trial and error.
Tim Barr, owner of the Glen Loch restaurant in Jamesville and a senior
instructor of beer and wine appreciation classes at Syracuse
University, says exploring and experimenting with beer is becoming
increasingly popular in this area—and not just among people in the beer
“Beer is the new wine,” Barr says. “One of the reasons is that with
beer, you can buy a single bottle for $3 or $4 and try it, whereas with
wine, you might be out $20.”
If you want to try inventing your own blended pints, Party Source,
2646 Erie Blvd. E., is a great place to sample new brews. Their
selection includes bottles, cans and kegs, with around 500 varieties of
beer in total, including many regional and local specialties. You can
break up six-packs, mix and match, and even buy single beers.
No matter what light-in-color beer you use for your own Black and
Tan, remember to pour the Guinness second, over an upside-down spoon,
if you want it to float—although the beers may blur if there is not a
great enough difference in density. Not to worry; you can still come up
with some great-tasting combinations.
In the lingering spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, summon your mixology
muse and proudly crown with Guinness whatever brew you choose. You just
might invent the next trendy blend by adding a little Guinness on top.