Black and Tan Experiments # something, I’ve absolutely no idea and can’t really be bothered to go back and find out

It’s been a while since I last did one of these. I think this may be number 19 or 20, or even 21. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Unless one of you is keeping score out there, in which case this is the first post of series two, which is actually series one from a new production crew, for budget reasons and such.

I could waffle on for ages, but lets get down to business. Last week, whilst we were at The Platform Tavern, conversation led to Sadler’s Ales Mud City Stout and Bristol Beer Factory’s Southville Hop. Both of them are awesome beers which I absolutely love individually. I can’t remember how they came to be referenced individually, or which one came first, but it wasn’t long before the idea of mixing the two came about.

I have to say that the balance I had as I started writing this post (about half and half), is good, but it isn’t really better than the individual parts. Moving the balance towards the stout end doesn’t really work either, nor does switching the bias towards the Southville Hop.

Some would say that the lesson to be learned here is just because you can try to mix and blend beers doesn’t mean you should. However, if you don’t at least try first, it’s very difficult to know what works and what doesn’t. Mud City Stout and Southville Hop don’t work.

They’re still awesome beers on their own though. I encourage you to track them down and try them. Seriously.

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Black and Tan Experiements – Chocolate and Cherry

Okay, so strictly speaking this isn’t a Black and Tan. But the mix is so good that it should be shared. It isn’t a new mix by any means. People have mixed chocolate stouts with sour cherry beers before.

It may though be a new mix to at least one of you reading, and if it is you should go out and try it, because it’s awesome.

The mix I have currently is Sadler’s Imperial Mud City Stout, and Boon’s Kriek Marriage Parfiat. Both sublime beers on their own, but together they work to create a blend that’s not far from a Black Forest Gateux in a glass.

See, mixing beers can work incredibly well. You should try it, simply because you can. (1658)

Black and Tan Experiements #20 – Vibrant Forest

For this impromptu edition of Black and Tan Experiments I’m deviating from the usual pale ale/IPA and Stout mix, and instead going for a Saison and Stout mix.

The Saison in question is Vibrant Forest’s recently released Farmhouse Ale (available to buy from Bitter Virtue in Southampton, and other local stockists). I opened it earlier this evening, not intending to use it in a blend. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the aroma, a wonderful mix of spices that draws you in and makes you want to taste the beer. The spices also come through in the taste, along with a slight hint of bananas.

Whilst drinking the Farmhouse Ale, I began to think that it could make a good blend with Vibrant Forest’s imperial stout, Black Oktober, a thick, luxurious imperial stout that has had a number of good reviews.

I suspect that I maybe right, though the blend needs more Farmhouse Ale than I used one this occasion. The flavour of saison works well with the imperial stout, perhaps more so than any of the pale ales and IPAs I’ve used in previous experiements, however with the amounts I used (around 4:1), the effects of the saison were far too subtle.

Both beers are certainly amongst the best that Vibrant Forest currently brew, and I think I’ll be trying this again, more methodically, to see exactly what the best blend is. (1680)

Black and Tan Experiments #19 – Nøgne Ø

Last year I started doing a series of blogposts in which I detailed my experiments mixing pale ales and stouts from the same brewery to make a Black and Tan. Most of these I’ve been able to do on a whim, however, there are a few, like this one, that require time to be set aside.

The pale side of my Nøgne Ø black and tan is their Imperial IPA. It is how I want an IIPA of this strength (10%) to smell and taste. It reminds me of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA. It has similar mixture of bitterness and caramel taste to it. The aroma is that distinct IIPA aroma that I’ve found in other IIPAs but never been able to adequately describe (much to my annoyance). Overall this is yet another beer in the Nøgne Ø range that I’d buy much more regularly if it was slightly cheaper.

The dark side of the black and tan is Nøgne Ø’s Imperial Stout (9%). In comparison to other Imperial Stouts I’ve had, and also the other Nøgne Ø beers I’ve had, it’s somewhat disappointing. It’s nowhere near as rich and flavoursome and aromatic as I’d like an imperial stout to be, and if anything, it seems rather thin. Maybe it’s an age thing. I have had both of these beers in my possession for the better part of a year now. Saying that though, I’ve found that imperial stouts usually get better with age, though as with all rules, there are always exceptions.

As for the mix, the IPA dominates both the aroma and the taste, with the stout hardly being noticeable at all. This is hardly surprising, considering the lack of any real distinctive characteristics in the stout. Whilst I’d buy the Imperial IPA again, I’d probably not bother with the Imperial Stout. If memory serves right, it’s the first beer I’ve had from Nøgne Ø that I’ve not enjoyed. Their Saison and Porter are both wonderful beers that I’ve enjoyed a few times, and Sunturnbrew is pricey, yet worth it for a treat.

So, after much delay, the Nøgne Ø black and tan. Not really worth the wait, but at least I’ve done it now. (665)

Black and Tan Experiments #18 – Shepherd Neame

Chances are, if you read other beer blogs or follow other beery people on Twitter, you’ll already be aware of the two beers that make up this experiements, and also of the fact that Shepherd Neame have used brown bottles, rather than their usual clear bottles.

If you don’t read other beer blogs, or follow other beery people on twitter, let me give you a quick summary as an introduction. Shepherd Neame have released two new beers, an India Pale Ale (6.1%) and a Double Stout (5.2%). Like many other bloggers I have been sent a bottle of each.

I’m starting off by trying the IPA. I like it. It seems to be balanced more towards the malt than the hops, but there’s still a nice amount of bitterness there. With so many modern IPAs utilizing large amounts of hops to give high levels of bitterness and flavour to the beer, it makes a change to drink a good IPA that seems more balanced. If I’m honest, I doubt I’d buy it again in a bottle, yet I’d likely consider it if it seemed to be the best option on tap in a pub. Even then, I’ve poured a half pint for this tasting, and I’m already wanting to move on to something else. I like the beer. It’s certainly not a drain pour, but then again, it’s not something I’d want to drink lots of.

The first thing I notice about the Double Stout is that there’s an element of smokiness to it. The initial aroma I got after opening the bottle reminded me of the aroma that often comes from Rauchbiers. That soon subsides, but the beer still smells good. As for how it tastes, it’s a good stout, but it seems to leave a dry aftertaste. As a result I find it difficult to enjoy beyond the initial moments of the beer being in my mouth.

Both beers seem to occupy that large middle ground of the beer world, the beers that are neither drain pours, nor the best beers in the world. Individually, they are both reasonably enjoyable beers, but how do they work together?

To put it simply, the answer is well. It has the flavour of the stout, but not the dryness, and it has the bitterness of the IPA. It’s what I want from a Black and Tan, one mouthful the characteristics of the stout are dominant, the next mouthful the characteristics of the IPA are dominant.

If Shepherd Neame could make a beer that tastes like this, with a bit less carbonation, and a bit less alcohol, I could probably find myself drinking Shepherd Neame beer more than I do now. Overall this has been a pleasant surprise.

Now, if we can just get Shepherd Neame to bottle the rest of their range in brown bottles…

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Black and Tan Experiments #17 – Camden Town Brewery #2

I’m at Camden Town Brewery. I’ve been here since 10:30 labelling bottles of 1908 Pale Ale. TV crews have been here filming the three of us doing it, and I have been part of a Japanese TV interview.

Part of this involved opening a bottle of the 1908 Pale Ale and pouring into a glass, and subsequently drinking it, saying what we thought of it.

I finished with half a glass left, so with Camden Ink at my disposal, I decided to try the two as a black and tan.

1908 is delightfully fruity, with a strong emphasis on orangey marmalade flavours, which led me to ask if the yeast had come from Fullers.

Ink is delightfully creamy, and full of burnt malt flavours.

Together they are ridiculously nice. The orangey flavours of the pale ale mellow the burnt malt flavours of the ink. After 16 hoppy or mellow Black and Tans, it makes a nice change to drink one that has a different flavour to it.

1908 Pale Ale goes on sale at the bar tomorrow. There’s only 650 bottles of it, and a few have gone already. It’s good stuff. You should get some if you can.

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Black and Tan Experiments #16 – Hitachino Nest

Hitachino Nest beers are rather tasty.

If you’ve yet to try them, you’re in for a treat.

My second Black and Tan on Monday consisted of two Hitachino Nest beers. Hitachino Nest is the brand name of the beers produced by the Kiuchi Brewery, which is based in Naka, Japan.

The pale ale was Nest Ale. It had a slight caramel aroma and taste, making it a very moreish beer, but with no real discerning characteristics otherwise. Saying that though, I feel I should emphasise the word moreish. It was very moreish, and this almost jeopardised the whole experiment.

I did though, manage to hold back from drinking it all and move onto the Sweet Stout, which is indeed sweet. In contrast to the Magic Rock Dark Arts (see Experiment #15), the burnt malt aroma in this beer is subtle, with a slight hint of sweetness. Sweet Stout reminded me a lot of Dragon Stout, both I found to be too sweet for my liking.

As for the mix, neither beer had overpowering defining aspects. The sweetness of the stout seemed to be the most dominant of the aspects shared between the two beers. The resultant Black and Tan would be an okay beer on its own, but it wasn’t great, and it was far from a good Black and Tan.

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Black and Tan Experiments #15 – Magic Rock #2

On Monday evening I decided to try a couple of the Black and Tan Experiments I’ve got in store. The first consisted of Magic Rock’s Dark Arts and High Wire.

Dark Arts is Magic Rock’s Stout. I find it has a rather strong burnt malt aroma and taste, that is almost overpowering. There is though a very slight chocolate sweetness at the end that takes some of the edge off of the burnt flavour.

High Wire is a pale ale full of fruity aromas, including lemon, and grapefruit, and apple, to name just three. It leaves a lingering dry aftertaste, which makes you want to drink more, making it a perfect beer from a marketing point of view.

The mix surprisingly had a slightly smokey aroma, with the stout being the more dominant of the beers. It had been mellowed slightly by the pale ale, but not much. I have a feeling that Dark Arts and Cannonball may be the best combination of the Magic Rock beers. When I can get my hands on a bottle of each, I’ll be finding out.

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Black and Tan Experiments #14 – Sam Adams Imperial Stout and Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

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I’m still in America, the land of big roads, big cities and big beers.

Sam Adams Imperial Stout is a gloriously delicious stout. Full of rich chocolate flavours and aromas with hints of aniseed. By far one of the best Imperial Stouts I’ve had in a while. I’d been enjoying it for a while when I thought about adding some Hoptimum for a Black and Tan.

Hoptimum is an Imperial IPA with an IBU of 100. It’s an extremely bitter and hoppy beer. It’s not that strong in aroma compared to many DIPAs, but it’s very strong in taste and alcohol.

The mixture surprises me. From experience I was expecting the high IBUs to cut through the stout and add bitterness to the stout. As it is, the Stout overwhelms in this case, with only a bit of hoppiness in the taste.

Two individually great beers make an okay black and tan.

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Black and Tan Experiments #13 – Brewdog 3

Late on Saturday Night, Jonny Bright posted this tweet…

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I’m guessing he was rather drunk at this point, though this tweet still put the idea into my head, and so earlier this evening, once I had got back from Leeds and dropped my suitcase off, I headed up to Brewdog Camden.

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I’ve had both Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink The Bismarck! on their own before. I find of them to be a bit harsh, especially when it comes to the aroma. It’s difficult to distinguish anything underneath the burning alcohol that wafts up from the glass.

Combine the two though, and it actually becomes a lot more drinkable. Everything about it mellows, and the taste becomes a chocolate followed by burning followed by a lingering sweetness, that ultimately satisfies.

Quick research tells me that I’m not the first person mad enough to actually try this. At least one other person has tried it, and noted this fact on the internet. There are references to A TNP/STB Black and Tan here and here. It’s not clear if these are two seperate people, or the same insane beer drinker.

It’s not something I’d reccomend having on a regular basis, but it’s something I reccomend trying, even if you didn’t like the component beers.

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