Black and Tan

John D. McGurk's Irish Pub, 1200 Russell Boulevard, 314-776-8309

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After the Mardi Gras revelry last week, the Soulard district looked hung over. Plastic cups, Bud Light cans and lonely beads, once coveted but now worthless, lay hidden in walkway crevices and buried in shrubbery; pink Hurricane spittle still stained the sidewalks. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. The city cleaned up, but there's only so much anyone can do to combat an army of inconsiderate, drunken idiots.

The area needed a little hair of the dog -- which is what it's going to get. Thanks to a calendar fluke, two (lame-ass) Rationalizations for Getting Drunk by Noon fall within weeks of each other. Yes, the drunks are primed to storm Soulard once more, this time for St. Patrick's Day. The horror. The horror.

St. Pat's Day in Soulard: when the French again surrender their homeland, this time to the Irish, who converge at the mother of all St. Louis Irish pubs, McGurk's. Of course, we wouldn't wish a St. Patrick's Day at McGurk's on our worst enemy. It's one of the best pubs in the city on every day except this one. But we humbly suggest that you hit the joint for a Black and Tan sometime soon.

The Black and Tan at McGurk's is a little chemistry experiment, a glory to behold: half Guinness stout, half Bass ale. McGurk's bartender John McAteer (who's strategically vacationing in Ireland during this year's St. Patrick's Day revelry, having endured the holiday here for the past decade) pours a half-glass of Bass and lets it sit for a minute. Then he takes a few steps to his left, where he procures the Black and Tan Spoon. This implement, with a hairpin bend in the middle, is designed to rest securely on the rim of the glass, with the spoon suspended upside down over the ale. "The spoon," McAteer explains in a soft Irish brogue, "is used to disperse the Guinness so it doesn't bleed down into the Bass." This is where the magic comes in.

He pulls the Guinness tap, and a rich flow of stout pours onto the back of the spoon, which breaks the liquid's fall so that it can sit on top of the Bass. When he's finished pouring, the Guinness (black) rests above the ale (tan), separate but equal, ready to be drunk.

Why the separation? The presence of nitrogen and relative lack of carbon dioxide in the Guinness lift it to the top; as a result, you get a nice half-pint of Guinness for one part of the experience and a half-pint of Bass for the next. But if there's too much momentum during the pour, gravity trumps chemistry, and it blends together. (We don't know; talk to a professor.)

Drink a pint one hour before bedtime and you're guaranteed to conk out fast and sleep like a little baby, all warm and happy. This is the real rain, and it's washing away your day, washing away the collected garbage that's accumulated in your consciousness. Sweet dreams, honey.

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