Nick Carr on March 16, 2016 4 Comments photo credit St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and it’s time to look beyond the green beer, people. Green beer has absolutely nothing to do with the original celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day. But drinking does. So, it’s time to throw out the oft times tasteless American lager, turning a trick by coming to the party green, and look to some actual Irish beer. It isn’t hard to find good Irish style beer and if you want something truly of Irish tradition look no further then the king of the Irish stout Guinness. I know some of you are already squirming in your seats, ready to blurt out that oh-so-oft used retort “I don’t like heavy beer.” Guess what, Guinness is not heavy, quite the contrary actually. Some dark beers are heavy, dry Irish stouts are not one of them. I usually use the guideline that if you like coffee you’ll like Guinness. There are two Guinness stouts to chose from in the U.S. — the Extra stout and the Draught stout. The Extra is exactly that; extra alcohol, extra roast, extra bite. The Draught is a toned down version and the one I’d go for if this is your first excursion into the world of Guinness. Draught comes in either a nitro can, for that full creamy head or a non-nitrogenated bottle. You can defiantly get your St. Patrick’s celebrations on by just enjoying Guinness alone, but I thought, for the fun of celebrations, we might look at the world of Guinness beer blends. If poured properly, often times, the Guinness will sit atop the other beer and you will be able to see a clear boundary between the two. This is possible because Guinness isn’t as dense (not as heavy… see I told you) as the other beer. The list below is of eleven of the most popular Guinness blends. I’ve included the stats on Guinness Draught as “The Boss” of the mixtures because it is more of a “gateway Guinness” and has less alcohol then Guinness Extra and is thus more suited toward celebrations. The different mixes are some of the most popular, making use of “Players” ranging from a second Irish beer to Belgian Wheats to Cider. These are fun to create and will give your guests something to ooh and ah about … and some of them actually taste great too. How to Pour a Guinness Blend Pouring these blends so you get the two distinct layers can take some practice. First, pour in “the Player” so it has a decent head and fills half the glass. Second, take a cheap spoon, bend it back at a 90° angle, hold the spoon in your glass close to the liquid surface and slowly pour Guinness over the surface of the back of the spoon. This disperses the falling liquid allowing it to sit on top instead of mixing in. You can also buy an already shaped spoon or several different kinds of inserts to make the pouring easier. The Boss: Guinness Draught from Guinness LTD Location: Dublin, Ireland Brewer’s Description: “Rich and creamy. Distinctively black. Velvety in its finish. This iconic beer is defined by harmony. Sip after sip, sweet counters bitter as the malt arrives on cue to compliment a base of roasted barley. Just as the unmistakable white head sits flush atop the dark beer, so do the flavors counter and combine perfectly. This is our greatest innovation. Truly unique. Perfectly balanced. Made of More™.” Read more from the brewer. Characteristics & Tasting Expectations: Style: Irish Dry Stout ABV: 4.2% IBU: ? Availability: Everywhere, all year round. 1. Black & Tan This is widely considered the original Guinness beer blend. You could even say this mix shows the real pride of the Irish having Bass, a beer with British origins, underneath the mighty Guinness. But be careful not to use this name if in Ireland. It as negative connotations associated with a reserve force known for attacking Irish citizens in the 1920s; instead order a “half and half.” The Player — Bass Ale from Bass Brewers Limited Brewer’s Description: “Bass is a full-flavored ale that is still brewed according to its original recipe. Select malts, aromatic hops and water rich in essential salts and minerals combine to give Bass its slight burnt roast aroma and high-quality, full-bodied flavor.” Read more from the brewer (PDF). Blend Expectations: Expect more bittering. Possibly fruity, herbal elements; Guinness roast should quiet a bit with caramel becoming more prominent. It may come across with a brighter crispiness. Click here to read my tasting review of the Black & Tan blend. 2. Blacksmith The Player — Smithwick’s Premium Irish Ale from Smithwick’s & Sons LTD. Brewer’s Description: “Smithwick’s is a traditional Irish ale and Ireland’s Favorite ale. Clear with a rich ruby color and creamy head. The aroma is a pleasant mixture of floral, fruity, and malty qualities and the taste is brings a rich depth of sweet malt gently balanced by light bittering with hints of roast and coffee from the roasted barley.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Guinness and Smithwick’s should meld and balance quite nicely. Smithwick’s Ale will bring more fruity elements to the ride along with added caramel and toffee character. Any bittering will likely go unnoticed. Finish should be slightly sweeter than Guinness alone. Click here to read my tasting review of the Blacksmith blend. 3. Belgian Brunette I don’t care for Stella Artois that much so I figure adding a Guinness can only improve upon it. This one is also called “Black Lady,” “Dirty Blonde,” and Black & Blonde.” The Player — Stella Artois from InBev Belgium Brewer’s Description: “Stella Artois has been called the most sophisticated beer brand in the world. The brand’s rich heritage dates back to 1366 and the Den Hoorn Brewery in Leuven, Belgium. The brand’s nearly 650-year heritage of tasteful sophistication is reflected in its iconic chalice and exacting 9-step pouring ritual. Stella Artois is still brewed using natural ingredients in the same processes of mixing and fermentation used in the old days. This guarantees that the beer is something we’ve been proud of and will always be proud of.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Hopefully any of the skunky elements caused by the Stella Artois green bottle will be lost here. Some slight bitterness may transfer along with some sweet grainy character, but honestly the most I’d expect from this mix is a lightening of the palate and a crisper feel. 4. Black & Blue Also found under the names “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Eclipse.” The Player — Blue Moon from Coors Brewing Company Brewer’s Description: “It started with our brewmaster, Keith Villa, wanting to craft a beer inspired by the flavorful Belgian Wits he enjoyed while studying brewing in Belgium. He brewed his interpretation using Valencia orange peel versus the traditional tart Curaçao orange peel, for a subtle sweetness. Then he added oats and wheat to create a smooth, creamy finish that’s inviting to the palate. As a final touch, he garnished the beer with an orange slice to heighten the citrus aroma and taste. Its natural unfiltered appearance adds to the depth of flavors in Belgian White*.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Expect some added brightness in this mix coming from the orange in the Blue Moon. Mouthfeel should remain smooth and creamy. The spice and orange peel will likely do some interesting things with the coffee, roasty elements of the Guinness. 5. Chocolate Covered Cherry This blend is also called “Black & Cherry.” The Player — Sam Adam’s Cherry Wheat from Boston Beer Company Brewer’s Description: “Crisp and fruity with a hint of honey, this cherry brewed ale has surprising depth while being light on the palate.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Add elements of cherry to the roast of the Guinness and this seems it could be a winner, but the cherry could easily overwhelm too. Mouthfeel should remain creamy and body medium. Possible sweet whispers of honey may calm the roast a bit. Click here to read my tasting review of the Chocolate Covered Cherry blend. 6. Black & Smooth This is another Irish-Irish mix for those looking to go all in with their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Also called “Black & Tan Smooth.” The Player — Kilkenny Cream Ale Brewed by Guinness LTD Brewer’s Description: “A nitrogenated Irish Red Ale that mingles gentle aromas of caramel with tart citrus hoppiness. The sharp edge of a sourdough flavor melst flawlessly into a smooth, dry finish.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Another that should meld quite nicely with the Guinness, lending to the whole without radically changing any elements. Body and mouthfeel should remain medium and creamy. It may add some bready, earthy qualities to the whole; possible lightly sweeter finish. 7. Snakebite Also called “Black Veleveteen.” If Strongbow cider is used it’s called a “Poor Man’s Black Velvet” referencing the popular pairing of Champagne and Guinness. If pear cider is used it’s sometimes called a “Dirty Pear.” The Player — Magners Irish Cider from Bulmers Brewer’s Description: “We love making cider, but we reckon there’s only one way to do it properly. That’s why we’re still taking inspiration from the historic methods we used when we started making cider back in 1935. That’s part of the Magners taste. So in this way we use 17 varieties of apples, waiting until they drop before pressing and filtering them in the traditional way. We take time to ferment the cider and even more time to let it mature, up to 2 years in fact, tasting it along the way. Sure, there are faster ways of making cider, but then it wouldn’t be Magners.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Expect added sweet tartness with possible aromas of green apple poking through the roast. Possible added sweetness on the finish, but probably won’t be cloying. 8. Black Bumble Bee This blend is sometimes referred too by the names “Bumble Bee” or “Black Honey.” The Player — Honey Brown Lager from Genesee Brewing Company Brewer’s Description: “This isn’t your watered-down light beer from college. Nor is it a heavy craft beer. Honey Brown pours right smack dab in the middle. A delicious golden amber color, it’s a beer you can drink throughout the night while staying true to yourself and your evolving palate. Enjoy it with friends. Enjoy it with strangers. It doesn’t matter to us—just enjoy it.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: I would think the honey sweetness of this lager would jive well with the roastiness of Guinness. Carbonation will likely bring more of zippy a feel to this combination. Look for slightly sweet graininess and that lagered quality that is especially evident in American lagers. Finish may be slightly sweeter, but will likely remain short. 9. Midnight in the Garden The Player — Hoegaarden White from Brouwerij van Hoegaarden Brewer’s Description: “500 years of hard work went into making this beer that features the aroma of orange peel, coriander and herbs that the merry monks imported from sunny Curacao. Speaking of which: pouring Hoegaarden is just like letting the sun fall into your glass: light yellow and naturally murky. And the soft foam adds a cloudy finish. And then there’s the soft taste, light and slightly sweet and sour and with subtle citrus notes… ah, just go ahead and taste it instead of reading about it!” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: May be much like the Black & Blue. Should be bright with hints of citrus, possibly banana, and other spices from the Belgian yeast. Carbonation and spice should make the palate spritely while retaining some creaminess. Possible grainy-sweet malt additions combining with the roast malt. How the Belgian qualities affect those roasty elements should be interesting. Click here to read my tasting review of the Midnight in the Garden blend. 10. Black Castle This blend may also be called “Black & Brown.” The Player — New Castle from Heineken Nederland B.V. Brewed by John Smiths Brewery Brewer’s Description: “A true one and only, Newcastle Brown Ale features fewer hops for a less bitter taste, a blend of light and dark malts for a unique, smooth flavor and a cool temperature for easy drinking.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Added carbonation will likely make the beer a little more springy, less smooth. Possibly more hop presence, while taming already low roast bitterness. Caramel and nutty notes should be quite evident and some added fruitiness could also play. Finish will likely remain dry. Click here to read my tasting review of the Black Castle blend. 11. Half & Half Confusingly, this blend is often called a “Black & Tan” but it’s slightly different then The Player — Harp Lager from Guinness LTD. Brewer’s Description: “Bright pale golden; fruity nose; crisp and clean, slightly bitter up front, smooth aftertaste.” Read more from the brewer. Blend Expectations: Zipper mouthfeel due to Harps higher carbonation. Expect some added sweetness and graininess along with the chocolate and roast. May retain some of the “lager” aroma and taste. Bittering will remain low. Possibly sweeter finish. Click here to read my tasting review of the Half & Half blend. Explore these Guinness blends above, and maybe a few others not listed here. These are really only the tip of a really big iceberg; look around the internet and you’ll find dozens more — though I think they put some combinations together specifically for clever naming sake. You can also explore on your own. Do you have a favorite Irish style craft beer? Well, pair it with a Guinness or your favorite lager and bring your own magic to the party. Cheers and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!