How to Serve Beer on Nitro
Any bar owner serving innovative craft beer has to stay abreast of the latest flavor trends in the industry. It’s all about creating an experience for your customers. Drinking a craft beer is a performance, and everything counts: from the pour and the head, to sound, sight, and taste. Nitro beers are no exception. So what is a nitro beer, and how should you serve it?
Nitrogen Craft Beer
The term “nitro” refers to the type of gas used in the carbonation process. Most nitrogen beers contain a mixture of gases, with 25% carbon dioxide, and 75% nitrogen. You’ll recognize nitrogen beers immediately by their massive heads, because the gas is actually insoluble in liquid. The most popular nitro is the famous Irish brew, Guinness.
You should first check your regular kegging system to make sure everything is running smoothly, is well maintained, and at the right temperatures. In order to set-up a system to serve nitrogenated beer, you will need the following hardware:
- Nitrogen Cylinder: Designed to handle high pressure, these tanks are made specifically for nitrogen. Check with your local gas supplier before purchasing a tank, however, because some will only exchange empties.
*Always make sure you store it and use it in an upright position, for safety purposes.
- Nitrogen Regulator: Unlike your CO2 regulator, a nitrogen regulator can tolerate a much higher pressure. The hardware fits onto the nitrogen cylinder in a much different fashion than a regular CO2 tank, and uses a different kind of connection.
- Nitrogen Faucet: Otherwise known as a “stout” or “creamer” faucet, it’s responsible for that brilliant cascading head that forms on nitro beers as they pour.
A small internal plate acts a sieve a forces the brew through tiny holes, filtering out the CO2. These faucets can easily couple with the standard CO2 beer shanks you already have.
*Note: Most systems work best at a serving pressure of 30-35 psi.
Once you have your nitro system installed and functioning properly, you will need to purchase a few more items to get up and running, like:
- Nitrogen Gas Blend: Sometimes referred to as “Guinness Gas,” it’s one quarter CO2, and the rest nitrogen. The gas isn’t very soluble in beer, and is simply there to help force the liquid through the restrictor plate. It zip lines the beer from the keg to the faucet
- Glassware: Most nitrogen beers are served in a 16oz glass. Some creative breweries, like Sam Adams, have developed a style of glassware all their own. It was designed for their new nitro IPA line called “The Nitro Project.” The glass is crafted with a bowl at the top and a large lip; providing space for the head, and delivering full foam.
- Beer: Anything malt-focused works best with the nitrogen process. As a rule of thumb, this generally involves beers that are served at 1 to 1.5 volumes of CO2. These types include: Stouts, Porters, Irish red ales, English bitters, and many more. These days, several breweries are even venturing into IPA’s.
Always start with a clean, room temperature glass. When you are ready to pour, pull the handle down all the way until the glass is about two-thirds full. Once the beer has settled for a few seconds, fill the remaining glass to the top. This is what’s called a “hard pour,” and it should always be at a 180 degree angle. Guinness has famously claimed this pour should take exactly 119.5 seconds.
Mastering the set-up, maintenance, and pour of nitrogen beer can be a challenging (yet rewarding) task. A few a common problems bar owners face when new to nitro are:
- Over -Carbonation: You’ll notice this happening if the lines are spitting way too much foam. You need to simply adjust the psi and test. You may need to do this several times.
- No Cascade: This happens when the serving pressure is too low. Start with a low dispense pressure like 25 psi and gradually increase it, until you feel you have the correct balance.
Sell, Sell, Sell
Once you’ve invested in a killer nitro system, you need to let the community know. Nitro craft beers are some of the most fun, delicious, and visually stunning brews on the market.
TapHunter is a highly utilized program in the industry for promotion. They feature a simple dashboard that allows you to not only update your menus, but notify all of your social media accounts at once. So what are you waiting for? Be the bar with the best beer in town!