Home > Off the Beaten Beer Path > A True Irish Black ‘N Tan Experience

A True Irish Black ‘N Tan Experience

Nothing draws attention like a perfectly poured Black & Tan.  Take a half glass of pale ale and top the second half off with a thick dark stout or porter drawn over the back of a metal spoon.  With the right variance in beer gravities and the perfect pour, the two beers separate and the dark stout magically floats on top of the lighter colored ale.  It’s a beautiful thing, and we’ll soon see trays of these show-stoppers being served in celebration of  St. Patrick’s Day.  Afterall, Black & Tans are Irish, right?   So naturally, when in Ireland, I resolved to have a real Irish Black & Tan.  As simple as that sounds, it didn’t quite go as expected…

My Irish Black & Tan Experience

We visited the Porterhouse Brewing Company – a great series of Irish brewpubs located in the heart of Dublin.   After a few samples, I asked for a Black & Tan – specifically a mix of their hoppy IPA and their stout.  The server took my order and left, only to return several minutes later claiming that the bartender didn’t know what that was. “Odd,” I thought, “an Irish bartender that’s never heard of a Black & Tan?”  I proceeded to explain, “just blend the IPA and the stout in a glass”.  Technically incorrect, I know, but at that point I lost interest in gravity and separation and just wanted the taste of a good Black & Tan.  She returned again.  Nope, the bartender still didn’t understand, nor did I (story of  my life), so I made one last attempt to explain.  The server left for the last time looking a bit uncomfortable, and within minutes she returned with one half pint of stout, one half pint of IPA, and an empty pint glass.  Yep, I was left to mix my own beer, and still had no idea why.

Inside the Porterhouse Brewing Company in Dublin, Ireland

The Historical Explanation…

After returning to the US, I visited a local pub where the bartender’s unmistakable accent revealed his Irish origin. Without hesitation, I jumped into my story and watched his face begin to beam with national pride.  “Oh no, it’s heathen,” he said, smiling and shaking his red head.  “They know what a Black & Tan is, they just won’t make it for you”. He continued to explain with a bit if Irish history…

You see, in the 1920’s, temporary “police” (many of whom were ex-British military officers) were recruited in Ireland to help control the Irish revolution.  Although their main target was the the Irish Republican Army (IRA), they became notorious for attacking and using brutal force on the Irish civilians.   These “police” were nicknamed the Black & Tans.  They were widely hated, and their violent actions still weigh heavy on the Irish, which justly explains why the Black & Tan drink is, to this day, considered “heathen”.

A Toast to the Irish

So this St. Patty’s Day, when we’re surrounded by friends singing irish folk tunes with a Black & Tan, Guinness, or even a Jamison’s and ginger in hand, take a moment to remember this little piece of history and then raise your glass and toast the Irish people who brought us this most joyous annual beer-drinking occasion.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Cheers Beers!

  1. March 13, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Interesting story!! I really enjoy reading your articles. Do you have any blogs about hot glass? That sounds like a fun hobby! As an aside, your link in the right toolbar doesn’t seem to work. Is your blog “cooking at the improve,” or is it “cooking at the improv?”

    • March 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      Thanks so much for reading them. I started a blog about my glass, but it just never took off. I’m not good at short blogs, so the Cheers Beers seems to take up all of my blogging time. You’re welcome to visit my website at http://www.paulasglassroots.com. It’s not up to date, but you can see what I do.

  2. The Wookie
    April 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I had a similar experience but fortunately I had my Irish grandfather with me to help me navigate the lingo. While traveling together in Ireland we stopped at a pub. He asked me, “What are you ordering?” When I said a “Black and Tan” he corrected me and said order a “Half and Half”. I did and a lovely glass of Guinness floating on Harp was served a few minutes later. Later in the drinking session the barkeep suggested I try a “Blacksmith” (Guinness over Smithwicks). I did, it was very tasty, and that has been my drink of choice at an Irish Pub ever since.

    Slainte Mhath

    • April 3, 2011 at 7:47 am

      Hi Slainte – Ah, if only I’d read this BEFORE my trip to Ireland – would have been a much different blog! Thanks so much for visiting and for posting that story – I’ll keep the Half and Half and the Blacksmith in mind the next time I find myself in an Irish pub. Perhaps this will save some Ireland-bound travelers from future embarrassment.


      • The Wookie
        April 3, 2011 at 8:39 am

        One more tip … “Slainte Mhath” is not my internet handle it is a traditional Irish toast that loosely translated means “Good Health”. I do have a bud who named his dog that. He is Irish and a big drinker.

        Slainte Mhath
        The Wookie

        • April 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

          Too funny! Again, an irish advisor would be helpful :o) Many thanks for the clarification and the Irish education!

  3. April 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    In Belfast my wife tired of cider and Irish coffees (not even Irish we know) so she ordered a tequila sunrise. They had to look it up. She wound up getting another cider.

    • April 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing. Seems the bar languages between the two countries are quite different, but it does make for interesting stories!

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