Walk into any beer bar or brewery today and you are likely to encounter a “nitro” beer on tap. The craft beer industry has latched onto this serving method, with no signs of slowing down. While most breweries serve nitro beers on draft only, some are experimenting with packaged offerings. As nitro becomes more commonplace in the beer market, here’s a quick guide on nitro beers and how they differ from their carbonated counterparts.
Let’s start with the beer. When people refer to nitro beer, they’re referring to the type of gas used in the carbonation process. When beers are served “on nitro” it typically means the beer contains a mixture of 70 percent nitrogen and 30 percent carbon dioxide. The nitrogen in the beer leads to a very different drinking experience (this is especially prevalent when trying a beer on nitro that’s usually carbonated). The main difference is in the mouthfeel. Nitro beers are smoother, creamier and thicker due to smaller bubbles, lending itself perfectly to malty beers like stouts, porters and brown ales. While it’s not uncommon to find hoppy beers on nitro, the general consensus is that the smaller nitro bubbles tend to mute the hop aromas and flavors that beer drinkers covet.
Another difference with nitro beers is the tap they are dispersed from. Nitro taps have a longer spigot with a smaller opening. A restrictor plate forces the beer through tiny holes before landing in the glass, causing the signature cascading bubble effect in the glass. The bubbles appear to float to the bottom while a thick head forms at the top.
One to Taste
Fogbound Brown Ale – 6.0% ABV/20 IBU
This is our spin on a classic American brown ale. Rich toffee and chocolate maltiness are paired with hazelnut and cocoa nibs for a Nutella-like sweetness and smooth, creamy finish. Availble in CO2 and nitro.