In Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer (1977), he wrote:
Some drinkers still mix Guinness with bitter to produce a drink known as a “Black and Tan”, but the military connotations of this mixture’s name are properly dangerous in the light of the recurrent Anglo-Irish Troubles.
This was a reference to the Black and Tans, the British-raised force who fought the Irish Republican Army in the wake of the Irish Rebellion, you can read about them here.
This said, and with due caution (if any needed today) to ordering such mixture in the Republic of Ireland, or possibly certain districts in Ulster, the mixture is a long-established one under this or more anodyne names. Guinness itself, by then an Irish company, advertised such mixtures in the late 1930s in ads similar to the one above (via Chronicling America) albeit the sample shown took a different tack, touting the “long pull” unalloyed.
The origins of the Black and Tan combination are obscure. The American Puck Magazine is said by the Oxford English Dictionary to have referred to it in 1881 but I can’t find any reference in the complete set of magazines available on HathiTrust for that year. If Puck did refer to it, perhaps the origin is American although many British sources refer to the drink.
In The Taster’s Guide to Beer (1977) by the American Michael Weiner a Black and Tan is defined as “stout-and-mild, mixed half and half”. The idea to mix stout with rich mild ale makes sense to me, as stout was sometimes a little sharp or sour from long age.
Weiner’s source is a Whitbread publication, Word for Word: an Encyclopaedia of Beer (1953), so back to the U.K. again.
With bitter ale becoming less bitter and dry in the 20th century, using bitter for the mild made sense too.
I made a Black and Tan recently, half of Stenhouse Porter from Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto, half of Doom Bar, a pale ale from England. I didn’t try the gimmicky American layering, but simply mixed them the way it was done (surely) originally.
The Doom Bar’s blandness was effaced by the rich malt of the Stenhouse while the latter retained a lot of flavour, a perfect blend. It is rather like some of the high-grade Guinness’s available, Special Export Stout, say, but at a reasonable alcohol level.
Would I order one in the Republic? I don’t see why not, if for no other reason my accent would vouchsafe safety, I think. Anyway no harm in asking. One has to be intrepid in beer discovery, to learn and develop.
I ordered light-and-bitter 30 years ago in East London pubs and specified I wanted light or pale ale for the bottled beer. (It’s half that, half draught bitter). I was told in one place, here we do it with lager and bitter so that will do, yeah? I said no thanks, I’d like it the other way.
They did accommodate and while I was not a bird of a feather, shall we say, it went just fine and I remember an engaged conversation over the pint.
Being at home at the moment, I make the drink as I think fit, and it suits very nicely. For me.