This review was penned by our Sensory Specialist and Certified Cicerone Travis Houston.
What is a nitro beer?
A nitro beer is a beer that has been nitrogenated, which means it’s been infused with nitrogen gas instead of the typical carbon dioxide used for carbonation.
What is the origin story of nitro beer?
Nitro beer was invented to imitate cask ale, which has a long and storied history in the UK. Before the 1960s, all Guinness left the brewery in a cask where it was allowed to “condition,” which means a second fermentation was responsible for naturally carbonating the beer. Frequently, casks were tapped before this fermentation had calmed down, resulting in less carbonated beer with a dense, frothy head.
What are the notable characteristics of nitro beer?
Nitrogen does not dissolve well, causing it to be released from the beer almost immediately. This creates the beautiful cascade that nitro brews are known for. Because these bubbles don’t dissolve well, they stay tiny, imparting a silky smoothness and dense, mousse-like head to the beer. Nitrogen also has the effect of masking some of the harsher flavors and aromas, making — for example — heavily-roasted imperial stouts more approachable.
What makes you want to drink nitro beer?
The rich, creamy texture is incredibly unique, and intensely satisfying. These beers also pair great with food, due to the mellowing effect that nitrogen has on flavor and aroma.
What are some Rhinegeist nitro beers that you dig?
Squirrely, Tuxedo Panther, and Penguin all make excellent nitro beers. Gramma, our collaboration with the Cincinnati State Brewing Program, tastes like a chocolate chip cookie on nitro. Nitro Press Tart is another awesome brew. We took our berry blasted Berliner Weisse and threw it on nitro, basically creating a beer smoothie.
What are the your industry gold standards for nitro beer?
Guinness literally invented the technology, and eventually moved it to cans and bottles using proprietary “widgets” to release the nitrogen in a controlled manner. Left Hand’s Milk Stout Nitro has been a mainstay for years in both draught and bottles. Recently, Modern Times in San Diego released a series of nitro cans that don’t use widgets, which is an innovation that has many in the industry intrigued.