A waterfall of liquid, with churning thick microbubbles and creamy cascading that fills a pint glass — why does nitro beer look so sexy? What exactly is nitro beer, and why it is such a big deal? Where can you get nitro beer on tap in Minneapolis and St. Paul?
These are the questions. Let’s begin with what nitro beer is. A few years ago, with rising notoriety around 2015 and 2016, a new beer trend swept the United States. Though beer is typically carbonated with CO2, making the effervescent and lively bubbly feel of Champagne, nitro beer is poured with another gas … yes, nitrogen. There’s still carbon dioxide in nitro beer, but less of it so that the nitrogen makes the beer feel creamier, smoother, softer, and for some, more delicious.
In the United Kingdom, the long beer tradition has included large amounts of cask ales, which have typically been served at room temperature and relatively “flat,” as opposed to modern beer taps that most often are chilled and carbonated to give the beer that fresh, thirst-quenching quality. Nitrogen was developed as a serving style for beer in the 1950s to mimic that old, familiar cask ale approach.
What Beers Are Best on Nitro?
If nitro taps make beer smoother and give it a more creamy, fluffy head, does it work well for all beer styles? The answer is no. Hoppy or light beers often are complemented best by the brightness of carbonation and effervescence that gives you that refreshing, bright, crisp sensation. On a hot summer day or after walking briskly to your favorite bar, you’ll probably gravitate toward the lighter and brighter beers that use CO2. When colder weather hits, however, you’re ready to sit down and settle into the darker days with richer, darker beers with more prominent malt profiles that often are enhanced by nitrogen gas.
The bottom line? Dark beer just feels right on nitro.
The most popular nitro beers in the United States take a nod from the United Kingdom, who’ve produced powerhouse nitro beers at companies like Guinness and Boddingtons. Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, and other large-scale breweries in the U.S. have incorporated nitro beers into their portfolios, with some even distributed in cans.
Where to Get Nitro Beer on Tap in Minneapolis-St. Paul
In 2016, Minneapolis’ Northgate Brewing started serving nitro beer. Unfortunately, they have since closed. Various craft brewers in Minnesota have served their beers on nitro in their taprooms or at some brewpubs or restaurants. Many of the offerings are seasonal or in small quantity, so they may be harder to find. Get started with these breweries that have had nitro beers on tap:
Can You Get Nitro Beer in Cans?
Why yes, you can get nitro beer in cans as well as on tap.
One of the first widely available nitro beers was in bottles, and it was Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Milk Stout. You can likely find Guinness Draught on taps and in cans. Check your nearest Haskell’s location to find what local Minnesota breweries and other breweries have nitro beer in cans or bottles. These offerings change regularly.
How to Pour a Can of Nitro Beer
Once you find some nitro beer in the Twin Cities, how do you pour it? Well, it’s different than the main method of pouring at an angle into your pint glass to minimize the frothy head until the very end of the pour. To pour a nitro can, tip it completely upside down so it pours hard and fast down into the pint glass. This allows the nitrogen to fully affect the beer and give you the most creamy, rich result.
Now sit back and enjoy the smoothness of nitro beer!