A movie night with friends? I need something good to sit back and relax with. I go to a local grocery store and peruse their beer selection. Score! I find a four pack of Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter on Nitro in tallboy cans. Tonight’s going to be a good night. I bring these up to the counter with a couple other goodies I found. I didn’t expect for the beer manager to not get the nitro part of the beer. Definitely wouldn’t expect to need to explain a carbonation technique for beers. I got to help him understand how to pour the bee and how this simple act changes the whole experience. He said he would give it a go when he got off work later that evening. I then realized that some might not know what a nitro beer is or why its different than a normally carbonated beer.
Aside from a visually stunning cascade of “falling” bubbles…I love the creamy, smooth character nitrogen brings to a coffee or milk stout.
— Andrew Grumke (@AndrewGrumke) August 23, 2016
Sliding my had around a tall frothing glass of beer as the condensation rolls down the clear curvature. The transparency allowing the color to radiate through. The aroma pouring out of the mouth of the glass. That aroma tunnels through that frothing foamy “head”. Normally that foam is formed by carbon dioxide dissolved into the beer. Tiny bubbles get released as the beer is poured into the glass, massing on of the beer to form the head. The carbonation bubbles roll over the tongue. But this is a normal beer. What makes a nitro beer, well nitro? Nitrogen. Nitrogen is forced to dissolve into the beer. Carbonation causes the effervescence and crisp, refreshing, lively punch beer can bring. Nitrogen or Nitro can be characterized by smaller bubbles. As the beer is poured in the glass the nitro cascades and the bubbles uncharacteristically and beautifully appear to sink. The smaller bubbles will also cause a creamy, velvet like mouthfeel. The nitrogen gives a different experience to the same beer and makes for a very interesting change of pace. While some brewers add different ingredients to get a bigger or smoother mouthfeel, some will just change the bubbles and so you have nitrogen beers.
Nitro beers: Silky, smooth and delicious… aka put them in my mouth hole. Now.
— Brew Explorer (@KCBrewExplorer) August 23, 2016
There are few ways to get a nitro beer. Most breweries that produce one stick to serving them on specialized taps that are longer and specifically designed to agitate the nitrogen out of suspension and maximize the Velvet Elvis effect. Left Hand, Breckenridge, Guinness, and others actually have designed bottles and cans to provide drinkers with the Nitro experience on the go. I have seen a few people not get the full experience. This was because of their pouring technique. When pouring a nitro beer, especially Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout, the bottle needs to be poured vigorously. This simply means pour the beer into a glass by pointing the open end directly down allowing the silky beer to rush into the glass. This activates and agitates the nitrogen to the desired degree. If Stouts aren’t your thing, I know Left Hand makes a Nitro ale called Sawtooth! Left Hand even animate their webpage to show you how to pour it!
I recently had Firestone Walker’s Nitro Merkin, and Oh My! That is a good beer to sit at a bar with. I got some at Grains and Taps while I waited on my homebrew ingredients to be put together. I get excited every nitro tap handle I see.
Now I think you should go try it out for yourself and tell me what you think. Did you get the beautiful cascading bubbles? Could a beer be more smooth? Let me know your thoughts! Andrew and Bert definitely did. Give them a follow!