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Controversially-named beer serve makes a comeback

A drink with a controversial name, which features an IPA at the base and topped with stout, is seeing a revival, much to the dismay of Irish drinkers.

The beer serve, named a ‘black and tan’ refers to the colours of the beer as the pale ale is poured at the base and the stout layered on top.

However, in Ireland, the ‘black and tans’ referred to constables recruited into the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence. They were nicknamed so because of their uniforms being a mixture of dark green (which appeared black) and khaki. During that time, the ‘black and tans’ gained a reputation for brutality and as such exacerbated Irish opinion of the British.

With these elements in mind, despite the beer serve being termed so due to its colouring, ordering a black and tan at an Irish bar could be viewed as a contentious move, especially by a British patron. However, taking a piece of history back, many Irish bars – especially in the US – are now beginning to offer the serve, sometimes with a nod to Irish history, but otherwise simply to upsell more Guinness.

As cited in Mashed in its recent guidance for how to pour the beer, it was suggested that the ideal brands to use to recreate the drink are Bass pale ale as the IPA component and Guinness as the stout to be poured on top.

According to the guidance, getting the black and tan layers to sit just right comes down to science rather than fancy bartending tricks. The rules highlighted how even though people might assume that a light-coloured IPA is also lighter in density than a darker Guinness, the opposite is actually true.

The rules outlined that Guinness generally has a low density, meaning it contains fewer sugars than a typical IPA and pouring the IPA first is how you can achieve the black and tan’s ‘floating’ effect. However, it warned that it might be prudent to pour the Guinness over an upside-down spoon.

The advice suggested that the two most important factors that can turn a mediocre black and tan into a great one are making sure that the two-toned libation has a foamy centre at least three fingers tall so the Guinness doesn’t blend into the pale ale.

It was cited that bartenders can easily accomplish this by quickly pouring the IPA straight into the glass and then when it is time to float the stout on top of the foamy barrier, insert a spoon upside down into the glass and gently pour the Guinness over the top of it. According to reports, this simple trick allows the beer to gently waterfall on top of the IPA instead of breaking the middle barrier. Advisors also hinted that beer lovers might feel that they would prefer to stick with the popular serve of a half of Bass since not all IPA and stout combinations will work as well as others. Despite this, the team suggested that the black and tan beer ritual is “worth the experimentation”.

In a recent series of posts via X, beer writer of the year David Jesudason re-brought the beer serve to the public’s consciousness, without its questionable name, by sharing images of a riff on the original – replacing the pale ale with Irn Bru – the post accrued 31.2k views and began a discourse on the flavours present in the serve as well as preferable names for it at the bar.

Jesudason highlighted the serve that featured Guinness layered onto Irn Bru and asked commentators what they thought of it, as well as a suggested new name for the beertail himself. Alternative names for the drink circulated with suggestions ranging from the Black Tiger through to a Duracell, or Irn Gu. The social media share led to Beer Nouveau’s head brewer Steve Dunkley taking to the platform to share his own riff on the serve which featured a Vault City Iron Brew and an O’Hara’s Nitro Stout. Upon finishing the beer, Dunkley said: “I’ve got to say, that was actually pretty tasty. I was expecting it to be kinda weird, maybe a little gross…But I’ll be honest, I would drink that again.”

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