Nitro beer is the latest craze to hit the craft brewing market, thanks to its smooth, creamy taste and frothy head. Instead of using carbon dioxide like traditional beers, nitro beer gets infused with nitrogen gas for a less bitter flavor.
Pouring the perfect nitro beer is something of an art form, and it takes practice to master the technique.
Read on to learn more about how to pour nitro beer, whether you’re using a keg or a bottle.
What You’ll Need:
Nitrogen can be difficult to dissolve in beer and requires higher pressures and lower temperatures than CO2 for optimal taste and a perfect nitro. If you’re pouring from a keg, you’ll need several pieces of specialized equipment to help you serve nitrogenated beer:
- A Keg: The majority of nitrogen beer brews come in high-pressure kegs designed to be served via nitro tap.
- Clamps: You need specialized clamps to control your draft and gas lines.
- A Nitrogen Cylinder: You need a nitrogen-specific cylinder if you want to handle the high pressures necessary to nitrogenate beer kegs. While you can find these at most homebrew stores, some vendors won’t fill new tanks. Instead, they will only exchange emptied cylinders.
- A Nitrogen Regulator: Instead of the standard CO2 regulator used with most beers, you’ll need a specialized nitrogen regulator to pour nitro brews. This type of regulator can handle the high pressures found in nitro beer kegs and should easily attach to nitro cylinder fittings.
- Nitro Stouts: A stout faucet is specially designed to work with a nitrogen draft system and the high pressures it will encounter. Beer gets forced through the faucet’s internal system of tiny openings, allowing excess gas to escape and leave your drink tasting smooth.
- A Clean Glass: You should have a clean glass on hand in which to pour your beer. It’s best to opt for something with a narrow base and a wide lip for easier pouring and a solid, frothy head to get the perfect nitro.
Pouring nitro beer from a bottle requires less specialized equipment than a keg but more finesse to perfect. However, keep in mind that it can be difficult to find brands that offer bottled nitro beers. To pour a bottled brew, you’ll need the following items:
- A Bottle of Nitro Brew: Though bottled nitro beers aren’t common, you can often find limited options in specialty beer shops.
- 16-ounce Beer Glass: It’s best to serve nitro beer in a specially designed beer glass. Tulip glasses tend to have the best shape, as they allow for a smooth pour and a sizeable head. A 16oz beer glass should be large enough to help you avoid spills.
Pouring From a Keg
Once you have all of your equipment set up correctly, you’re ready to pour a glass of cold, creamy nitro beer.
While it can be a challenge to set up, pouring nitro beer from a tap is one of the easiest ways to get a perfect nitro glass every time. The best way to pour nitrogen beer is known as a “hard pour.”
Step 1: Prepare Your Setup
Attach all necessary regulators and faucets to your keg setup, then ensure tight clamps and secure lines. You should have a clean, room-temperature glass ready to go.
Step 2: Pull the Tap Handle
Ready your faucet against your beer glass, and then pull down the tap handle completely. Pour until the glass is about two-thirds of the way full, and then stop.
Step 3: Top Off the Glass
Allow the beer in your glass to settle for a few seconds, then fill the remaining space. You should aim to pour at a 180° angle to get a smooth consistency and a perfect head. Serve immediately.
When using a keg, you may have to do some troubleshooting to get your pour just right. Over-carbonation can cause an overly foamy head and a sharp flavor, but you can fix this by adjusting the psi of your keg setup.
If you have trouble achieving an even pour, you may be able to improve it by gradually increasing the psi.
Pouring From a Bottle
While pouring nitro beer from a bottle may seem like the easier option, it requires some practice and finesse to get the technique just right. Activating the nitrogen requires some force to ensure that you get the right amount of foam in your glass.
Step 1: Prepare Your Setup
Pouring nitro beer can get messy, especially when there’s more foam than expected. You should have a clean glass at the ready on your countertop along with a towel for wiping up any spills.
Step 2: Invert Your Beer Bottle
Hold the bottle of nitro beer over the rim of your beer glass and fully invert it. Hold the neck of the bottle towards the bottom of the glass.
Step 3: Lift Slowly
As the beer pours out, slowly lift the bottle, keeping it close to the surface of the liquid. Only lift the bottle out of the glass completely as you drain the last few drops. Wait a few seconds for the head to form, then serve.
If you find yourself with too much foam, you’ve likely agitated the beer while pouring. Try to keep your bottle close to the surface of the beer to avoid splashing or excess oxygenation. Pours without enough of a head may need a more aggressive technique.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should You Shake Nitro Beer Before Serving?
Some nitro beer brands recommend that you shake bottled nitro brews before serving to help activate nitrogen and achieve a smooth, even pour.
However, you don’t necessarily have to shake your beer for optimal flavor. You can achieve the same effect by agitating beer as you pour for a creamier glass.
Can I Drink Nitro Beer Straight From the Bottle?
While drinking nitro beer straight from the can or bottle won’t hurt you, this is generally not the best way to enjoy it.
Pouring your beer into a glass helps activate the nitrogen and produce the smooth, creamy texture of a perfect nitro. If you drink a brew straight from the bottle, it may taste more bitter and feel harsher on the tongue than if you use a glass.