Power Hour: Nitro Beers

Power Hour is a new segment where I will spend exactly one hour answering a question or writing about a topic. It can be on beer, writing, myself, anything. You can submit a question anytime by leaving it at the bottom of a post or sending it privately to me here.

Start the clock! It’s time for another Power Hour. In one hour I will answer a question/write about a topic and post it. Questions about what? Anything. I’ll stick to beer for the most part but I’m game to answer any questions you have on life, writing, video, etc.

What are Nitro Beers?

When kegged beer is poured from a tap it is carbonated on the spot through CO2. This is true for 99% of kegged beer (the typical beer you get off a tap at a bar). However, N2 or Nitrogated beer (Nitro beer) is starting to grow in popularity. Instead of CO2 the beer is carbonated with N2. The most famous Nitro beer is Guinness. Nitro beers are much creamier and have less of a bite to them. They coat your mouth leaving you wanting more. You can usually spot the Nitrogen taps by the downward-facing black plastic (I think plastic) nozzle the beer flows from instead of the angled metal tap head.

What I enjoy about Nitro beers is that they are different from your typical ales. They aren’t quite at the level of Sours in terms of weirdness but it’s always fun to try something different. Heck, trying a Nitro beer might make for a good Beer Mission if you’ve never had one before.

My Nitro Beer History

Nitro beers typically are Stouts, but they don’t have to be. Stouts tend to be creamier to begin with so why not accentuate that attribute? Who wants a creamy pale ale?

That’s what I thought until last week when I had my first non-stout Nitro beer, Nitro Pale Ale by Founders at Glass Half Full. It was amazing. I never thought a light, hoppy beer would taste good with the consistency of a liquidy milkshake. Go find some!

Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout is another great one to try. If it wasn’t for my deep love and history with Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout I’d have to say Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout is my favorite Stout (and may be beer). At a beer club I hosted a few months ago this beer was very well received, even by non-dark beer lovers.

Speaking of Duck-Rabbit, did you know that if you look at their logo you can see a duck AND a rabbit? I didn’t know that until today and my mind was blown!

Nitro beers are growing so that Left Hand is trying to trademark the term. IMO it’s a term describing the beer, like a style or brewing method therefore it should be free to use by all. But playing devil’s advocate I don’t think another brewery could come along and brew a 60 Minute IPA even if they brewed it the same way as Dogfish Head.

A couple Nitro beers to try would be Guinness (of course), Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout and Founder’s Nitro Pale Ale. I have heard great things about Left Hand’s Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout Nitro but haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.

To sum up, Nitro beers use N2 to carbonate their beers instead of CO2. They are not beers you drink while watching professional wrestling. Wasn’t there something to do with Nitro and pro wrestling some time ago? Was it a show? That would be a lot funnier if I knew the reference. There are some great Nitro beers to try and they aren’t all Stouts. Nitro beers are growing at a fast rate and don’t be surprised to see more and more of them. Go seek out some Nitro beers!

As always these Power Hours are written, formatted and posted in one hour. That means I’m going to leave out a bunch of information. That’s where I need you! Share what you know about Nitro beers. What Nitro beers have you had that were good? Which ones were bad? What Power Hour topics do you want to see in the future?

Thanks as always for reading! I deeply appreciate any comment, like, share that you give this post or anything here on Short On Beer. If you’d like to never miss a new post or update you can subscribe to the email list at the bottom of this page. Cheers!

For more information on Nitro beers, Craftbeer.com has a good, quick writeup here.

8 thoughts on “Power Hour: Nitro Beers

  1. In terms of makeup and mouthfeel, cask ales could be compared to nitro. I’ve never had a non stout poured from nitro, but plenty of other styles that were casked. I adore an IPA from the cask for the reasons you mention. In addition to offering a different profile for hops used in the beer, the thickness and feeling of the beer is great, especially when it’s so foreign for the style.

    • I can see some parallels. My experience with cask ales isn’t as extensive as I’d like it to be though. Guess I’ll have to perform some tests to confirm.

    • Because of the low solubility of N2 and the resulting rush that it causes as it escapes the liquid, I don’t like hoppy beers like IPAs on Nitro. They just come off as less bright in the nose then their non-nitro counterparts. For this reason I prefer to leave the nitro to things like stouts and cream ales (a style I feel the application really shines in) and pass on everything else.

      Cask does give you the same mouth feel (due impart to lower carbonation) without duching all the hoppy goodness out of the product. Some would say that a hop forward beer like an IPA has no business in a cask, but I loved Dogfish Heads 75 minute IPA (that until recently was a cask only beer) and Evolution’s Lot 3 on cask is damn good as well.

      Great post!

      • A Cream Ale on Nitro sounds delicious. Any idea on where I can find one in our region?

        I haven’t had the chance to have an IPA on Nitro but that Founder’s Pale Ale mentioned above was outstanding (to me of course).

        • Cream ales are kinda hit and miss, because as you know, they’re not the most “glamorous” beer style out there at the moment. The last one I had was at Triumph brewery in New Hope PA (and we just happened to stumble upon that one) and it was REALLY good. All I can suggest is keep looking.

  2. I am a fan of Belhaven Scottish Ale on Nitro, it is delicious. Recently I had a local beer on Nitro’d called Listermanns Nutcase. It’s Peanut Butter Porter and Wow! is all I got. Found that at Arnold’s in Cincinnati. As for your wrestling reference – WCW Nitro was one of the show names…it was not creamy and smooth like a milkshake though.

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