UPDATED: OCT 26, 2012
It’s impossible to make a good black and tan beer at home. The only way
to get a truly good black and tan is at a bar (Guinness and Harp being
the best choices to mix). So when I came across Saranac Black & Tan I
was a bit skeptical. How could they have mixed the beers at the factory
without it tasting odd?
I was quite surprised to find Saranac
Black & Tan does taste as it’s intended, with the heaviness,
dryness and smoothness of a stout but with the clean finish of a lager.
How they were able to cram all that into a bottled beer I’ll never know.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
The darker and heavier
in body a beer is, the smoother it pours out of the bottle, at least in
my experience. Such is the case with Saranac Black & Tan as it
flows smoothly and quickly from the bottle to the glass forming a ½-inch
tan-colored head. The head is a bit creamy and will linger throughout
the drink with a lot of lacing on the glass.
Since the beer is
made from a stout, it’s no surprise it’s essentially opaque black in
color. But if you look closely you’ll notice it’s actually more of a
very dark, somewhat cloudy maroon hue.
As for scent, it’s
fairly dry and bitter to the nose. But once drank the aroma comes alive
with all the varieties of ingredients that make up a very complex
The bottle of Saranac Black
& Tan actually challenges you to correctly identify all the
different flavors present in this beer. What do you win if you name them
all? Well, nothing, but you do get the privilege of drinking a very
tasty beer in the process!
This brew contains many of the
typical qualities of stouts, in that it’s dry and bitter but complex in
taste. Much like Guinness, it is reminiscent of coffee, chocolate and
deeply-roasted hops. In fact, this roasted taste is the most significant
of all the flavors and carries the most weight.
At least the beer is smooth and easy to drink, since it is half Irish
stout, after all. It has very little bite to it and finishes crisp and
easily. However, it’s a little strange drinking it, since it’s so dark
you might expect it to feel like a velvety smooth stout, but the lager
actually has more presence so it’s a little fizzy. Still, it’s nothing
the average drinker can’t handle.
tasty as the beer is, its heavy body is what prevents Saranac Black
& Tan from being a master brew. Stouts are full-bodied and
full-flavored and lagers are just the opposite, yet this beer strongly
favors its stout characteristics. As easy as it is to drink, it’s very
quick to fill you up, even on an empty stomach. It would probably be a
good beer to drink with a light meal, but it wouldn’t work well as a
party drink. Fortunately, it’s only available in Saranac variety packs
so two is most definitely satisfying.
Just the thought of a black and tan in a bottle is enough to make the
average beer snob raise an eyebrow. But Saranac Black & Tan is
well-crafted and tasty enough to be appreciated by the most
discriminating connoisseur. To the average beer guzzler it might be too
strong, too bitter and/or too dry (at least at first), but they’ll very
likely to warm up to it quickly.