Whenever you drink beer and you get a little bloated or have a case of embarrassing burps that is due to the carbonation in the beer. Usually beer has carbon dioxide present from fermentation and pumped through it on tap or in a bottle to keep the bubbles flowing and the wort happy. And sometimes instead of carbon dioxide you find nitrogen, an exciting alternative to traditional beer gas.
Nitro beers have become popular in the craft beer scene because of the flavors and properties this gas gives to beer over carbon dioxide. Nitrogen unlike carbon dioxide is harder to dissolve in beer and gives a creamy and smooth mouth feel to the beer. This gas also makes the beer taste different because it is acidic, making the beer it is in less bitter. Even though some nitro beers like Guinness have been around for decades, breweries today are experimenting with the gas to give their beers a competitive edge to the others on tap and give you an amazing drinking experience. The most popular brews to find on nitro are porters and stouts because the gas emphasizes the big flavors of these brews like chocolate or espresso. I love beer on nitro and I always want to convert people who have never had a nitrogenized pint before because they are missing out on a fantastic drink. Besides the bigger flavor and feel of the beer another characteristic I really like from having a nitro beer is that the head on a nitro is amazing- don’t take that the wrong way. The reaction from the nitrogen causes the beer to have a fuller foamy top (head) that continues with the beer as you drink; it’s a buddy that doesn’t flake after the first few minutes or sips to go somewhere else. One extra note when you order a beer on nitro, let the beer sit for a few minutes- I know this will be hard- until the beer settles. You’ll know when it is time to drink when you don’t see anymore little bubbles moving around the glass.
Most of the brewpubs in Corvallis offer a beer on nitro, for instance Clodfelter’s is the only place in town that offers Guinness on nitro (the only great way to have a Guinness), and whichever in-house brew at Mcmenamins is on nitro will always be a crowd pleaser. I tried to order their current stout on nitro and they were all tapped out so that goes to show that nitro beer is amazing. From time to time The Red Fox and Block 15 will have a nitro choice as well, it just depends on what rotation they have on tap.
Two of my favorite places in town to get beer as well as nitro beer are Sky High Brewing and Flat Tail Brewing. The current nitro choice at Sky High is an unusual one which is their Brew Kahuna NW Red. Usually a red ale is not offered on nitro because red’s usually lean on the hoppy side and have a distinct flavor of their own from the malts used in the brewing process that would not be exemplified by the nitrogen gas. Before going to Sky High I have never tried a red ale on nitro so of course I had to give it a go. The pint glass arrived with an extra foamy head and the color transitioning from a bright red to a darker hue as it settled with the nitrogen. After everything settled in the glass the beer was a beautiful amber color. The beer itself tasted great, I always love a red ale, but the nitro gave this beer a bigger flavor profile. The nitrogen gives this beer that smooth drinkability that come from this gas and the hoppy aftertaste that comes from reds was cut down which made the beer more enjoyable. This red nitro is very different in that hoppy beers don’t find themselves filled with nitrogen but Sky High is leading the way for brewing unique beers and switching up the delivery.
After drinking this nitrated red I walked a few blocks down to Flat Tail to have their Big Fin Porter on nitro. This was the very first beer I have had on nitro and I have never looked back. Every time I go to Flat Tail I don’t think twice about my first beer because it is always the same. But this time was different because their Big Fin Porter was not offered on nitro so I had to choose another. This time around I tried the Wald and Oats on nitro. It is an Imperial Milk Stout brewed with crisp pale and roast barley to balance the roast notes in the beer. When I had the first sip of this beer I was happy that Big Fin wasn’t there because this beer was some of the best beer I’ve had. It was espresso-chocolate-goodness and because this is a milk stout, an already creamy beer, the added nitro escalated the beer so much more by making the beer decadent and oh so dark and inviting. Part of the reason why I love porters and stouts on nitro is because the gas makes the beer like adult chocolate milk, who doesn’t like that? A treat for yourself that is cold, creamy and chocolaty that has an adult kick to it. It makes me wish that it were more acceptable to drink beer through a straw to make my inner child happy.
Nitro beers are very exciting and delicious and I encourage you to try one the next time you find yourself at one of Corvallis’ fine establishments. Having a beer at the bar is always more fun because you are with friends in your favorite watering hole. Having a beer on nitro makes that experience even more special because you can’t buy the crafted nitrogen brews at the store. The only downside to enjoying nitro beer is that it costs a little more than a normal pint; but the drink is worth every penny.