Please Don’t Order a Black and Tan in Ireland

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, we are inundated with all things Irish, and because Guinness Stout is the quintessential Irish beer, we are also bombarded with all things Guinness.

One thing made with Guinness that is not Irish is the Black and Tan. Unless you have been living under a rock, a Black and Tan is beer cocktail made with half Guinness and half Bass Ale, where the Guinness floats on top of the Bass. This simple drink can be seen as a metaphor for many things Irish and English; they don’t mix. An Irish folksong as case in point:

Come Out Ye Black and Tans

I was born on a Dublin street where the royal drums did beat
And the loving English feet walked all over us,
And every single night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbors outside with this chorus:

(chorus) Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell her how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra.

Although associated with St. Patrick’s Day in the US as one of its two ingredients is Guinness, do not order a Black and Tan in Ireland.

Black and Tans is the nickname given to the British paramilitary force, largely made up of English WWI veterans, formed to suppress the Irish Independence movement in 1920 and 1921. The Black and Tans employed brutal tactics in an attempt suppress the Irish Republican Army’s guerilla war, massacring civilians and burning Irish towns. They were called the “Black and Tans” due their khaki military trousers and darker police uniform shirts.

As a result of their mistreatment of the Irish people, Black and Tan is pejorative term in Ireland and calling someone a Black and Tan is an insult. Ordering a Black and Tan in a pub in Ireland with an American accent might not be taken as insult, but would certainly be considered quite culturally ignorant. To bring it back home, ordering a Black and Tan in today’s Ireland would be like ordering a Red Coat in early 19th century America.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, order a Half and Half instead. Similar to a Black and Tan, it is half Guinness Stout and half Harp Lager, making it all Irish.



  • Hannah March 13, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Wow, Pete, I never knew!

    • Tvlee767 June 1, 2017 @ 12:10am

      ANgela’s ashes,by Frank.Mcourt ,really moved my heart. The story was sad and funny to heart breaking, worth reading.

  • Zhang Kun May 17, 2009 @ 11:02am

    This is very helpful information, since I am translating an Irish novel into Chinese and came across the phrase “Black and Tan”.
    Thank you very much.

  • Hannah May 18, 2009 @ 8:20am

    Good luck in your endeavors, Zhang. Glad we could help!

  • Jim February 3, 2011 @ 9:22pm

    Reportedly the brits also pressed their military criminals into the unit.

  • Chris July 4, 2011 @ 10:16am

    I cant believe its Guiness and Harp in the mix..DO NOT ORDER IT IN IRELAND! expect to get a punch if you order it around an Irsh person! and i think if you have any respect dont order it at all! They burned our houses and raped our wives!

  • Michael August 2, 2011 @ 7:05pm

    I wish I had read this post before my recent trip to Ireland. It would have avoided an embarrassing moment. For more read on what happened read:

  • Diane February 21, 2016 @ 11:59am

    Unfortunately my grandmother told us a few stories from her youth in Ireland. And it was before 1920, Black & Tans walking down the roads in her village. I am sure there was a lot she left out but the stories were never good. She left in 1920 for America, she was 19

  • Scott Munroe June 11, 2016 @ 7:57pm

    Don’t plan any trips to Ireland, anyway. I love black and tans, and I love Guinness. I enjoy the freedom, too.

  • Ed Sjolin June 29, 2016 @ 5:43pm

    I have always considered myself an alternative Irishman. After all, my Scandinavian ancestors brought red hair and freckles south. As I was growing up in a horse-training town, I was exposed to quite a few Irish steeplechase jocks and through their good graces, I was warned before my first trip to Ireland. A lovely country and a lovely people.

  • Warren February 19, 2017 @ 1:06pm

    Unfortunately, Guinness and Harp have closely similar specific gravities, and trying to get a good separation is very difficult. They usually blend together, resulting in more of a porter… it is still tasty (Harp is one of my favorites.. they call it an authentic Pilsner Lager)

  • Lindsay July 6, 2017 @ 10:00pm

    I was just told off by my Irish colleague for asking if he’d like a Black & Tan. I hit google to find out what was so upsetting about this. I now see the error of my ways!!

    • Brian July 15, 2017 @ 4:55pm

      Lol. Didn’t this end a bit ago? He shouldn’t be so sour anymore.

  • Harry Allen July 23, 2017 @ 9:17pm

    Damn, glad I now know better in case I ever make it over to the Auld Sod.
    Always made mine with Guineas and Harps Lager.
    Now Oirter and whatever brown or amber ale is available.

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