Nick Carr on March 14, 2016 7 Comments Photo Credit: Flickr / Petr Dadák Shop for Guinness Gear on Amazon Thought with St. Patrick’s Day coming up I’d take the most iconic Irish beer on a stroll through six different two beer blends. Blending two or more beers together has a long history, though it was usually an aged or “stall” beer being blended with a younger or “stock” beer of the same kind. This was once done in the pub and sometimes even to the customers own preference. Today you can order a few of these Guinness blends in local pubs, especially if said pub is putting on Irish airs. Guinness Draught is closer to what you would find on tap in many pubs, this, along with its lower alcohol and less assertive roasty elements is why I chose it for these reviews. If you’d like to read about some other optional blends I’ve also created a list of the most popular Guinness Blends, including the ones reviewed below. 1. Half & Half Blend = Guinness Draught & Harp Lager As the name implies, this blend consists of half Harp Lager and half Guinness Draught. Fill the glass half way with Harp Lager. Then rest a spoon on top of the glass and slowly pour Guinness on top of the spoon. This will help keep the Guinness on top, giving it the iconic Half & Half appearance. Here’s what you can expect from this blend: Appearance: In light, the color is ruby with a black center. Almost no head on this one, though this is likely partially due to the Harp being completely flat when I opened it. Aroma: Roast is reined in but still the most prominent aroma. There are some sweet grainy/bready notes and yeasty tones. Some low fruity notes too. Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel is very smooth and body is medium (expect more of a zippy mouthfeel from a carbonated Harp). Taste: Roast remains prominent, but a sweeter grainy element dances along now. Light mineral quality and some fruitiness. Finish is lightly sweet, but still crisp. The aftertaste brings strong roast with whispers of honey-like sweetness. Overall: There might be something to be said for combining a flat beer with Guinness, depending on what you’re looking for. This one kept its creamy smoothness largely due to the lack of carbonation left in my Harp lager (Harp usually has a good amount of carbonation). The taste was refreshing and what I can only describe as sweetly roasty. 2. Chocolate Covered Cherry (aka: Black & Cherry) Blend = Guinness Draught & Sam Adams Cherry Wheat This blend consists of half Guinness Draught and half Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. Here’s what you can expect from this blend: Appearance: Dark reddish-brown when mixed; with garnet memories stitching the corners when held to good light. Head is slightly whiter, can see carbonation streaming, adding to the low creamy looking foam. Aroma: Cherry forward, but more artificial than I was expecting. Even after letting it warm up the cherry dominates everything else. Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel is nicely smooth (what you’d expect combining a wheat and Guinness). Body is low-medium with a slight weightiness to it. Taste: Bit of a cherry soda vibe to it somehow. Cherry taste seems awful artificial for having come from real Michigan cherries. There is some grainy wheat character mixing with the roasty qualities, but the cherry really distracts. Finish is very slightly bitter. Get some of the roast from the Guinness playing in the aftertaste. Overall: Honestly this is my least favorite so far. It reminds me too much of cherry Coke, which may be a good thing for some of you out there, I don’t know. If I were to do this one again I think I’d look for a cherry beer slightly more subtle and tart. 3. Black & Tan Blend = Guinness Draught & Bass Ale Often confused with Half & Half, this blend consists of half Bass Ale and half Guinness Draught. First, you fill the glass with Bass Ale, then rest a spoon on top and slowly pour in Guinness. This will help keep the Guinness on top, giving it the iconic Black & Tan appearance. Here’s what you can expect from this blend: Appearance: Dark mahogany when held to light. Clarity is good and can make out shapes through the ruby interior. Nice display of off white head. Fair bit of carbonation streaming up the sides. Aroma: Lighter fruit flit with the darker Guinness standard. Light herbal qualities. Hints of biscuit and sweeter malt elements; caramel especially. Mouthfeel: Higher carbonation floats the body a bit and dries the mouthfeel. Taste: Malty caramel at the front with light hints of roast and minor bittering. Any hints of coffee from the Guinness seem to be lost in this one and the Bass looses a lot of its brassy bright notes. herbal and floral hop whispers. Lightly bitter at the back with a quick dropping finish. Mineral in the aftertaste. Overall: This combination brings a little more hop presence along with added fruitiness. Not bad, especially if looking for something slightly more hop bitter. 4. Black Castle Blend = Guinness Draught & Newcastle Brown Ale This blend consists of half Guinness Draught and half Newcastle Brown Ale. Here’s what you can expect from this blend: Appearance: Color is garnet when held to good light. It has a small off-white tannish head that holds well. Aroma: Caramel maltiness along with light fruit. Roasty notes contributed by the Guinness blend well. Low hay-like herbals speak of the hops. Mouthfeel: Noticeable increase in carbonation makes the mouthfeel less creamy more prickly. Body remains medium. There’s a mineral-like quality on the palate. Taste: Light sweetness at the front. Big caramel and the roast mellow each other out. I still pickup light skunkiness. It has somewhat heightened bittering, with an added mineral quality at the back and a quick finish. Overall: The clear bottle still gets me on New Castle. But to be far this had very little skunkiness going on. This combination seemed to be much like a cola with just a little more bite. 5. Blacksmith Blend = Guinness Draught & Smithwick’s Premium Irish Ale This blend consists of half Guinness Draught and half Smithwick’s Premium Irish Ale. Here’s what you can expect from this blend: Appearance: Once mixed the color is a much the same dark blackness as the Guinness, but when held to light the edges appear slightly redder than the edges of a straight Guinness. Small creamy island of head, off white and holding strong. Aroma: Caramel, toffee, with a low roast background. Coffee raises a shy head dancing with the sweeter malt elements splendidly. Some low fruity qualities watch from the sidelines. Mouthfeel: Lighter and juicer on the palate, the mix pushes the body centrally into the medium realm with slightly more carbonation dancing across the palate. Still very balanced. Taste: Sweet and malty upfront, transitioning into a spry blending of caramel and darker roast mid-palate. The Smithwick seems to take the rains rather than the Guinness here, with the caramel noticeable through the finish and the roaster qualities only whispers of their once leading role. Overall: I was in an Irish pub whose stonework had actually been shipped from Ireland when I first tried a Blacksmith. It was my introduction to Guinness blends and still is one of my favorites. The unification of malt, both sweet and roasty, is hard to beat. 6. Midnight In The Garden Blend = Guinness Draught & Hoegaarden This blend is a mix of half Guinness Draught and half Hoegaarden White Ale. Here’s what you can expect from this blend: Appearance: Has a really unique look if poured right. A bone-white finger of head sitting atop that dark-turned beer makes a great contrast. Good retention. In light the color is a deep rich amber. Medium carbonation is visible. Aroma: The Belgian yeast comes through with cloves and bananas, other herbal aromas. Twinges of honey, sweet graininess, and low roast and chocolate. Mouthfeel: Smooth, creamy, but springy with medium carbonation. Body is medium-full. Taste: Brings a crispness to the Guinness. Brightens nicely with notes of citrus. The chocolate becomes more prominent. Some banana whispers going on, mixing great with the chocolate. Finish doesn’t linger, slowed only slightly by the roasty malts. Has an interesting slightly cocoa-like aftertaste with spicy undertones. Overall: This is my second favorite of the bunch. The brightness of the citrus and augmentation of the chocolate made the marriage grand. Would be great on a hot summer day. Final Impressions None of these were terrible, but some were definitely more enjoyable then others. If I were ranking them I’d have to say: Blacksmith Midnight In The Garden Half & Half Black & Tan Black Castle Chocolate Covered Cherry If you’re only gonna try one or two of these you could look to tradition and go with the Black & Tan, but if going for taste I’d highly recommend the Blacksmith and Midnight in the Garden which I feel are far above the other four. All of these could be considered well-known and widely available, which makes these blends easy, but most would not consider these the best examples of their respective styles. I’d hazard a guess that many of these blends could be elevated by bettering the example. Take for example the Chocolate Covered Cherry. Sam Adams cherry wheat really isn’t all that great, especially when compared to some other fruit beers out there. Finding one with more real cherry subtlety, I feel, would go a long way in improving the Chocolate Covered Cherry. Black Castle is the same. There are English Brown Ale examples out there miles ahead of New Castle and the same could be said for each of the others. So, try some of these for the convenience and fun of it, but don’t be afraid to go off script and make them better. Have A Happy and Safe St. Patrick’s Day!