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Can't decide which style of beer to enjoy tonight? Enjoy two completely different brews in the same glass with the popular Black and Tan. This is the layered beer drink that you can see poured in almost any bar in America, and it's very easy to make at home.
The Black and Tan requires two beers: a pale ale (like Bass Ale, Boulevard or Sierra Nevada) at the bottom and Guinness Stout (or a similar dark stout) on the top.
These two beers make a perfect "black and tan" layer in the glass if they're poured correctly. As you drink it, you'll find the two layers remain separated and that the finish is the complete opposite of the first drink.
The Black and Tan has transformed modern bar taps, which are now often decorated with a "Black and Tan spoon." As you will see, the spoon is the key to creating the layers of this and similar beer drinks.
Fill a pint glass halfway with the pale ale.
Float the Guinness on top by slowly pouring it over the back of a spoon to fill the glass.
Traveler's Tip: If you travel to Ireland, the one thing you should not do is order a Black and Tan at the pub. Instead, ask for your Guinness straight from the tap. The same etiquette rule applies to the Irish Car Bomb.
The Trick to Creating Layers of Beer
There are two elements that make layered beer drinks a success: the density of the two beers and a slow, indirect pour.
Density of the beer: As with any layered drink, one liquid will only float on top of the other if it has a lighter density (or specific gravity) than the liquid on the bottom.
Because beers are not like liquor, any given beer may have a different density than another, even if the two are of the same style. Not all stouts will float on top like Guinness (though most will) and not all pale ales are as heavy as Bass Pale Ale and can withstand Guinness' weight (again, many will).
If you want to try with different brands of beer, you may need to experiment to find successful combinations.
The slow, indirect pour: Again, taking lessons from layered cocktails and shots, the layered beer drink will only work if poured correctly. Pouring your second beer in the normal manner (tilt the glass and pour down the side) will not work if you want it to float on top of another.
You have to block and slow down the beer pour, which is why a spoon is necessary. By flipping any spoon over and pouring the beer over the back of it, the flow is interrupted and distributed. This gentle pouring method allows the two liquids to remain separate as they come together in the glass.
To get a perfect pour, you will need to practice. It's not a bad practice, though, so enjoy a few of those "practice beers" and take your time.
More Layered Beer Drinks
The Black and Tan is not alone in the world of layered beers and there are many other combinations that work. For all of these popular drinks, the technique is the same, only the beers have changed.
Tip: In general, a drink with "black" in the name is going to call for Guinness, though similar stouts may work just as well.
Black and Blue: Blue Moon topped with Guinness.
Black and Brown: Newcastle Brown Ale topped with Guinness.
Black and Gold: Hard cider like Angry Orchard or Magners topped with Guinness.
Black and Red: Raspberry lambic topped with chocolate stout. Or Killian's Irish Red topped with Guinness.
Black and Orange: Pumpkin ale topped with a stout.
Black and White: Any light-colored beer topped with a stout.
More Layered Beer Tips and Recipes
If you really want to take your layered beer experience to the next level, The Perfect Black and Tan website is dedicated to layering beer and has an impressive number of beer combinations that can be layered. They even have a section filled with triple-layered beers.
The Perfect Black and Tan has also developed a "beer layering tool." This device looks like the drain stopper for your kitchen sink and makes pouring beer even easier than the bartender's spoon trick. If you love layered beer, it is worth the investment.