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Nitro Wizardry

“Nitro” is the brewing nickname for nitrogen gas. The signatures of nitro beers are (1) brilliant clarity in the glass; (2) thick, long-lasting foam; and (3) a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

Nitro in A Nutshell

A nitro beer contains more nitrogen gas and less carbon dioxide (CO2) gas compared to a traditional
beer. Nitro bubbles are smaller than CO2 bubbles. They are also happier to remain suspended in liquid, whereas CO2 bubbles are anxious to escape. As a result, the foam created by nitro bubbles is thicker and lasts longer. Also, because there is less CO2 in the beer, carbonation is minimal, paving the way for a velvety smooth texture.

The Theater of The Pour

Presentation is an essential part of the nitro experience. Brewmaster Matt Brynildson calls it “the theater of the pour.” When Nitro Merlin Milk Stout is served, there is a cascading “waterfall” effect—the dark beer temporarily whitens as the nitrogen bubbles rise to the top. Once the bubbles fully rise, the beer becomes brilliantly clear, and it is crowned with a strikingly rich head.

How Nitro is Made & Served

A nitro beer is made by trapping less CO2 during the brewing process, then infusing the beer with
nitrogen gas prior to kegging. Next, the keg is pressurized with nitrogen gas at double the amount of
pressure as a traditional keg. The keg is then tapped with a dedicated nitro tap system. At the point of
the pour, the beer is pushed through a special “sparkler” nozzle. This nozzle agitates the nitrogen to
produce the tiny bubbles that create the perfect pour.

Old World Inspiration

In order to understand the origins nitro, you must first journey across the pond, where the grand tradition of “cask ales” once dominated the local pub landscape.
With a cask ale, the brewery delivers a cask—or firkin—of still-fermenting beer to the pub. There, the publican is responsible for “conditioning” and finishing the beer prior to serving. A lot of things can go wrong along the way, and even when executed perfectly, cask ales have a short shelf life.
And so nitro beer was developed as a way to mimic the classic British cask ale experience. Nitrogenating a stable beer allows you to capture the similar head and mouthfeel of a cask ale while bulletproofing the process.

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