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No, this isn’t about mixing beer with half-and-half, the whole milk and cream mixture often used with coffee. Today is all about layered beer. As in a darker beer on the top and lighter beer on the bottom. There is a bunch of science that goes into why Half and Half beer mixtures are possible, but there is only one thing you need to know before getting into the meat of this article. Half and Half beers are a wholesome, delightful experience.
If you never had a Half and Half beer cocktail before, you are definitely going to want to try one out by the end of this article. So let’s get started.
What is a Half and Half Beer?
Although there are several different variations and names for the Half and Half beer cocktail (which you’ll be introduced to later), the standard Half and Half layers a dark beer with a lighter beer, namely Guinness Draught Stout with something else. Half and Half beers will always have Guinness Draught on top. There is a reason for this.
Most beers are not made like Guinness. As you may already know, Guinness Stout is made with 75% nitrogen and less sugar than other beers, so it is lighter than most brands and types. Because of that composition, Guinness will float on top of other beers like oil does on water.
Historically, the lighter part of the Half and Half was Harp pale lager, but Bass pale ale is also used regularly. You may find that Bass pale ale is easier to get your hands on these days. Bass is one the world’s top selling pale ales and is known for its full flavor. Bass and Guinness pair extremely well together, and the resulting Half and Half is nothing short of ambrosial.
How Strong is a Half and Half?
Is a Half and Half beer stronger than a regular beer? Not really. Keep in mind that you are splitting two beers in half and mixing them together. Unless you are using a high alcohol beer for the bottom portion of your Half and Half, you can expect the ABV to be the same as a single serving of one beer: around 4.5-5.0% ABV.
If you specifically use Guinness Stout and Bass pale ale, the ABV per serving comes to 4.7%.
What Are Other Names For a Half and Half?
You may hear some people call the Half and Half beer cocktail a “Black and Tan,” particularly in America. The name originated in the 17th century, when people in Britain started mixing different kinds of beer together. However, despite the connection to Guinness, the phrase “Black and Tan” is not popular in Ireland. There is a reason for this.
Black and Tan are two colors associated with the uniforms from the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve, which was a group of British soldiers, and used to suppress Irish independence during the 1920s. Because of that, most Irish pubs would prefer it if you ordered a Half and Half instead of a Black and Tan.
Also, avoid asking for an Irish car bomb while in Dublin. That drink is better referred to as the Irish slammer when among your Irish drinking buddies.
How Do You Pour a Half and Half Beer?
To make a traditional Half and Half beer, you are going to need Guinness stout, Bass pale ale, and some good glassware. There are a few recommended styles of glassware: English tulip pint, a Guinness pint glass, nonic pint, or shaker pint. Next, follow these steps:
- Start with your lighter colored pale ale first.
- Hold your glass at a slight angle (around 45 degrees), and fill it about halfway.
- Next, grab a spoon. With the back of the spoon facing you, start to gently pour the Guinness over the spoon.
- Pour slowly and continuously, letting the steady flow of the stout trickle down into the glass. This can take some practice. If you pour too quickly, the beer will flow down the handle of the spoon, towards your hand.
- The Guinness beer will float on top of the Bass pale ale, creating a Half and Half. Drink up and enjoy!
This video shows you exactly what the process looks like:
Pouring a Half and Half With a Layering Tool
The downside of using a spoon to create a Half and Half is that the layers are not always entirely distinct. If you want to get a better layered look, pick up a layering tool for cocktails. The layering tool looks a little like a juicer or strainer and has tiny holes that the Guinness runs through. You start the same way—by filling your pint glass halfway with Bass pale ale.
Then you grab the layering tool and place it over the top of the glass. It should fit snugly. Pour the Guinness the same way you would with a spoon, slow and controlled. The stout trickles down into the pint. Once the glass has been filled, remove the layering tool.
The layering tool is useful if your hand is not very steady. However, regardless of the method you choose, your Half and Half will taste the same.
Amazing Half and Half Beer Cocktail Variations To Try
Now that you know how to make a Half and Half, also known as a Black and Tan, you may be wondering what other flavorful beer combinations exist. Guinness is incredibly versatile, and you can mix it together with numerous beers. Here are some of the top combinations floating around the internet right now:
Traditional Half and Half
This one is based on the original blend of Guinness Draught and Harp Lager. As mentioned earlier, Harp can be a bit difficult to find, which is why Bass pale ale is more commonly used. However, if you find yourself in Ireland, Harp is often used.
The way Guinness and Harp come together is truly amazing. Although there is very little head, the smooth mouthfeel and sweetness of the malt dances on the tongue. The lager helps bring out the roast and adds some notes of honey to the blend. Overall, this is a deeply refreshing combination. No wonder it’s so popular.
Black and Cherry (Chocolate Covered Cherry)
The original recipe calls for Guinness Draught and Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer. However, you are by no means limited to Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. Choose a cherry lambic (like Timmerman’s Kriek) or a fruitier, hazier beer. You may find that the blend is much more flavorful than this one.
The Chocolate Covered Cherry (Black and Cherry) has a cherry cola vibe that is a hit or miss with many people. If you like cherry coke, then this is a winner. If not, avoid it or swap in another fruity beer.
Arguably one of the best tasting Half and Half combinations out there, the Blacksmith uses Guinness Draught and Smithwick’s Irish Ale. The flavors blend together to create something like creamy, gently roasted coffee laced with toffee and caramel. Smithwick’s also adds some malt that rounds out the overall experience well.
This video shows you how to make a Blacksmith and what it looks like:
Midnight in the Garden
How do you feel about chocolate-covered citrus? If you love how it tastes, then you should try mixing Hoegaarden White Ale and Guinness Draught together. When poured, the two beers create a striking contrast, alongside a stark white head that lingers. It’s the kind of beer cocktail you post on Instagram.
Flavor-wise, the Midnight in the Garden is full of honey, banana, chocolate, and spice. Enjoy this combination during a warm summer night.
The Black Castle (Black and Brown)
Mix together Guinness Draught and Newcastle Brown Ale to get the Black Castle, also known as Black and Brown. In good light, the caramel coloring of the brown ale is distinguishable from the stout above. You also get a tan-colored head that sticks around for a long time.
The taste is as you would expect from this blend: caramel, chocolate, and a touch of hops on the back of the tongue. Since Newcastle Brown Ale has a lot of carbonation, the mouthfeel is less smooth than a traditional Half and Half.
A word of warning: Newcastle comes in a clear bottle and can be kind of skunky when poured. This can affect the taste of your Half and Half.
Black and Blue
Similar to Midnight in the Garden, this is a combo of Guinness and Blue Moon. If you find that you prefer Blue Moon’s flavor over Hoegaarden, this is definitely worth trying. The Black and Blue beer cocktail is a bit more citrusy and effervescent than other blends.
Want to make your Black and Blue more delicious? There is a proven combination that takes New Belgium 1554 Black Lager, Blue Moon, and Guinness. Split the beers into thirds, pouring as you usually would.
Black and Orange
Want to welcome the fall with a Half and Half beer variation? Try out a Black and Orange, made by combining Guinness stout with any pumpkin-spiced ale you can get your hands on. Some of the best tasting pumpkin beers for this include Troegs Master of Pumpkins, New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin, O’Fallon Salted Caramel Pumpkin Beer, and Dogfish Head Punkin.
Turns out that pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, coffee, and chocolate all play well together. Expect the Black and Orange to be a marriage of beers that tastes like autumn in a cup.
Two Halves Make a Whole Delicious Beer
If you have been searching for something to take your enjoyment of beer up a notch, why not try mixing two together? The Half and Half beer cocktail is a winning combination that takes Guinness beer and just about anything else. If nothing else, why not try out the traditional Guinness and Harp or Bass combination? You will not believe how great a Half and Half can taste!
FAQs About Half And Half Beers
A Half and Half beer is a mixture between a dark colored stout (usually Guinness) and a pale ale or lager. Since Guinness is brewed with nitrogen, it has a lower specific gravity than most beers and floats. However, there are a number of variations to the Half and Half that use all kinds of beer.
An Irish Half and Half is the traditional beer cocktail that takes half a Guinness Draught stout and Harp pale lager.
There is no special way to drink a Half and Half beer. Consume as you normally would—responsibly. When you tip the pint to take a sip, the beers merge together on your tongue, so you get the full spectrum of flavor from each.