Nitro is commonly associated with traditional breweries, but an increasing number of craft breweries are adopting the nitrogenation method and incorporating this type of beer into their lineup. With a plethora of alcoholic beverages available to beer enthusiasts worldwide, brewers are constantly seeking breakthroughs to provide a more enjoyable drinking experience. The use of nitrogen in food products, such as modified atmosphere packaging, nitro cold brew coffee, and nitro beer, has become increasingly popular.
Most beers have traditionally been carbonated to create a lively, fizzy effect. However, some brewers are replacing carbon dioxide with nitrogen, offering a different dimension to their beloved beverages.
What Is Nitro Beer?
Nitro beers are brewed using nitrogen gas instead of carbon dioxide. Nitrogen-infused beer has a smoother, creamier appearance and taste due to the smaller bubbles formed when nitrogen interacts with the beer. These distinctive effects arise from the fact that nitrogen is not soluble in liquids, resulting in a “heavier” mouthfeel for those savoring nitrogen beers.
Carbonation And Nitrogenation
Both carbonation and nitrogenation have their advantages and disadvantages in the brewing process. On one hand, carbonation is a long-standing traditional method of beer production. It creates larger bubbles, providing a lively and effervescent sensation on the palate. In contrast, nitrogenation yields beer with smaller bubbles compared to carbonation.
The ongoing debate among experts about which process produces superior beer shows no signs of conclusion. When executed correctly, both methods yield outstanding beverages, with consumer ratings based on their subjective expectations regarding appearance and taste.
How Nitrogen Changed Beer
By combining a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide under high pressure, brewers can create nitro beer. Nitrogen is less soluble than carbon dioxide, a property utilized to produce beer with high barrel pressure but low carbonation. The applied pressure varies depending on the type of beer being nitrogenated. For dark beer, approximately 8 psi of pressure is sufficient to nitrogenate it.
The cascading effect observed in a glass of nitrogenated beer is due to different rates of dissolution when interacting with the beer liquid. During consumption, nitrogen bubbles gather at the sides of the glass, while carbon dioxide bubbles rise from the center. Additionally, using a restrictor in front of the tap generates tiny air bubbles in the beer, resulting in a thick, creamy head, a smoother mouthfeel, and reduced acidity.
Gas Composition Of Nitro Beer
Nitro beer typically consists of a gas mixture containing 70% nitrogen and 30% carbon dioxide, known as “beer gas.” Nitrogenated beers are devoid of oxygen, allowing them to maintain their flavor for longer periods by minimizing oxidation. When the beer is dispensed, it passes through a fine sieve, and the mixture of beer and gas is forced into the beverage. Nitrogen removes carbon dioxide from the beer solution, resulting in highly carbonated beer.
Benefits Of Using Nitrogen In A Brewery
In addition to the evident advantages of increased shelf life and enhanced taste that nitrogen imparts to beer, on-site nitrogen generation systems offer breweries substantial return on investment and instant accessibility benefits.
Cost-effectiveness: On-site nitrogen supply can save breweries 40-75% in gas costs compared to nitrogen tank delivery or carbon dioxide delivery. Shipping rates for carbon dioxide and nitrogen vary, and depending on the brewery’s proximity to the gas facility, costs can be higher compared to competing breweries. This contributes to the expense and base cost of the beer.
Mixing with CO2: When the recovered CO2 is insufficient, a mixed gas of nitrogen and CO2 can be used, which is more cost-effective than using CO2 alone.
User-friendly: Nitrogen is not limited by wine fermentation gas production, and it offers the advantages of simple operation, quick start-up, and availability at all times.