It is common practice to mix and layer tap beers, most recognizably Irish beers, to create a new flavor and, in the process, a new beer. The most common variety, the black and tan, is traditionally a mixture of two Irish beers, Guinness and Bass Ale. While there are other types of mixed Irish beers, and other beer varieties in general, the practice started by mixing only tap beers. More recently, American breweries have been bottling mixtures, and with that they are having their go at the black and tan. Some are done fairly well and some are flat out not good, but the Saranac offering is a nice place to start.
Saranac Black & Tan is one of the brewery’s core beers, which tells you how highly they think of their blend. While not outstanding, this black and tan is a good look into the style. It pours a dark color but is light in composition, and looks like Coke during the pour and as it settles into a glass. It’s body isn’t as heavy as the color might indicate, but being a mixture of a lager and stout, it shouldn’t be that heavy. You can taste the influence of each beer immediately. The malt component from the stout is the main flavor and is smooth throughout, while the lager undercuts with a lightness and a bit of carbonation. Each beer is meant to have an impact, and the lager provides a noticed lightness while the stout provides the majority of the flavor and body. Some might say it’s the best of both worlds: a richer flavor with a light body that won’t fill you up. The malt component is not bad or great, but after a while you notice it doesn’t offer much other than a traditional stout flavor, which yields a slight aftertaste. But Saranac Black & Tan is refreshing. It’s nice that it provides the flavor of a beer that might normally be thick, but without the weight you might not want, making it nice in warm weather. In cooler weather I’d prefer a straight stout, but in warmer weather it provides a flavor you might not normally crave while still quenching your thirst. In terms of flavor I’d prefer a stout, but this is more refreshing than many stouts. This is a good beer overall. Black and tans will always be better when mixed from tap, and the flavor will always be better when just a stout, but if done correctly, the bottled combination can be very good. Yuengling also makes a decent version of the black and tan, and while this style can be hard to track down, if you get the opportunity, it’s worth a try.