This year craft beer drinkers are going to see a surge of “nitro” beers, beers that are infused with more nitrogen than carbon dioxide, hitting the taps and beer store shelves. Guinness developed the technology in the 1950s and has been the king of the style for decades. A few other Irish breweries have come on board over the years, mostly releasing nitrogenated Irish Dry Stouts.
In 2011 Left Hand Brewing Co. became “both the first American and the first craft brewery to master the science of bottling a Nitrogen beer without a widget.” Other American craft breweries have experimented with the style and I predict that in 2016 you will see a major influx in the amount of nitro beers available.
Whether or not you think Nitro beers will have their heyday in 2016, you have to admit that the science behind the beer is pretty spectacular. Watching the tiny bubbles cascade downward in the glass before building a lasting creamy head is one of life’s little joys. In the interest of beer education, I’ve put together a little primer on nitrogenated beers. – “Nitro beers bubbling to the top” by Jeff S. Baker II
I wrote a column about nitro beers for the Burlington Free Press and will share the link below. I wanted to include a few sentences here that were struck due to space constraints. I wrote:
Nick R. Jones writes in “The Oxford Companion to Beer,” “The almost imperceptibly small bubbles of N2 are much more persistent than larger CO2 bubbles…Nitrogen bubbles are more stable than CO2 bubbles, partially resulting from the fact that the surrounding air is mostly nitrogen as well.”
[Removed due to space constraints:] “Think back to physics class: gases want to equalize pressure on both sides of a permeable membrane. The protein structure that forms the head of the beer, i.e. the membrane in this scenario, is just strong enough to keep that last little bit of nitrogen trapped since the ambient air contains a high level of nitrogen already.”