With these words, Franklin Roosevelt fulfilled the campaign promise that propelled him to the White House. By urging lawmakers to modify the terms of Prohibition, FDR hoped to stave off social unrest while the nation impatiently waited for the ratification of the 21st Amendment. Congress followed Roosevelt’s lead, and two weeks later the president signed the historic Cullen-Harrison Act, which amended the terms of Prohibition’s legal basis — the Volstead Act — to allow the manufacture and sale of lower-alcohol beer.
On April 7, the first legal shipments rolled out of the breweries; the story goes that the first barrel from at least one factory was brought directly to the White House. Regardless of the destination of that first delivery, there were many, many more to come: More than 1.5 million gallons of beer were reportedly consumed in the first 24 hours! Although the country’s drinkers would still endure a full eight months of relative sobriety before Repeal brought about the true end of the Noble Experiment — and the re-legalization of strong beer, wine, and spirits — at last the honest working man could return to the tavern for his pint of (weak) ale. 75 years later, we’re still celebrating.
Outside of a few localities with antiquated beer laws on the books, you’d be hard pressed today to find a commercial brew that could squeak by under the Cullen-Harrison threshold: 3.2% alcohol-by-volume beer is hardly heady stuff. But technicalities aside, there’s no reason not to enjoy a pint (or two) of your favorite ale to mark the occasion of the 75th anniversary of beer’s return to law-abiding beverage status.
The world of beer-based cocktails is a strange and storied place, where venerable working-man’s refreshers like Boilermakers and Redeyes rub shoulders with new-fangled concoctions like Turbo Diesels and Sake Bombs. But — at least in America — perhaps the best-loved mixed-beer involves no hard liquor, no soda, no juice… in fact, no adulterants at all. The Black and Tan — a beer parfait of sorts where dark stout floats atop a golden ale — may or may not have been invented Stateside, but it owes its soul (if not its actual pedigree) to Ireland. So popular is this beverage that Ben and Jerry’s introduced a limited edition, beer-flavored Black and Tan ice cream complete with adorable foam head.
Making a Black and Tan at home is a cinch: There’s no need for a specialized gizmo, just patience. Fill a pint glass — preferably the bulbous Imperial style, rather than the tapered American sort — about two-thirds full with the ale. The glass is wider at the top, so you’ll wind up with roughly equal amounts of each beer this way. Top the ale with the stout, pouring slowly over the back of a spoon.
If you use a stout other than Guinness, be sure it offers a lower alcohol content than the ale you choose, or you’ll end up with a Tan and Black. Pour too fast, and you might get something more like a Muddled Beige. If the latter happens, assure your guests they’re drinking it the way they would in the Old Country, where the drink is better known as a Half and Half, and layering’s a trick hauled out for American tourists.
Delightful as it is, the Black and Tan’s hardly the only beer cocktail that doesn’t require a shot of booze. Of the dozens of possibilities, here are a few of our favorites.
Black and Tan
1/2 stout, preferably Guinness
1/2 bitter (aka ESB-style pale ale in the US), such as Bass
Pour the ale into a pint glass, filling approximately 2/3 of the way to the top. Float the stout on top of the ale, pouring over the back of a spoon to keep the layers separate.
1/2 ginger ale
Combine both ingredients in a pilsner or collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge or a sprig of mint.
1/2 hard cider
Combine both ingredients in a pint or half-pint glass.
Panache (aka Radler)
1/2 sparkling lemonade
Combine both ingredients in a pilsner or collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
More beer cocktails from Drink of the Week:
- 1/5/07 Black Velvet
half Guinness, half Champagne
- 11/24/06 Michelada
Mexican beer with hot sauce, lime, and salt