It’s a gas, gas, gas
The vast majority of beers consumed today will be carbonated, either naturally or by post ferment addition. Carbonation, obviously, is the introduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) to a liquid to create the bubbles you see in your beer so what does changing the gas involved actually do, it’s still just bubbles right? Well, not entirely…
Nitrogen gas has a smaller molecular size than carbon dioxide and so creates smaller bubbles than the standard CO2 in your beer. The smaller size of bubbles will create a much tighter foam for the head and also, once drunk, a smoother feeling on the tongue giving more creaminess and better mouthfeel.
The size of the bubble, however, can’t convey the big hoppy aromas as well which isn’t a massive issue where big nitro stouts are involved as the benefit of the texture of the beer far outweighing the reduction in the volatile aromas.
The next thing is the solubility of the gas itself. CO2 can dissolve in water readily due to the polar nature of the molecule (it’s like a little bar magnet). Nitrogen, being non-polar, doesn’t which leads to the small bubbles breaking out easily producing that beautiful cascading effect you see in all those images of a certain nitro stout made by a famous Irish toucan.
The lack of solubility also increases the sweetness of a beer to the consumer as with CO2 some of the gas will dissolve on the tongue creating minute amounts of carbonic acid which along with the bubble burst gives most beer (and soft drinks) that sharper taste and refreshing zing.
You may not notice the sharpness of a standard CO2 beer but once you try a nitrogenated brew it will become more obvious.
There are minor setbacks with this solubility of nitrogen in the fact that it won’t stay in the beer long meaning beers can go flat quicker than a standard carbonated one but if it’s a tasty brew it’s not going to be hanging around long in the glass anyway!
Hardcore Hard Pour
Along with the difference in the actual science of the gases themselves there is also a difference in the way you should serve them too.
With nitro beers you need to perfect the hard pour, a way to dispense the beer contrary to standard brews where the can is turned a full 180° after opening and allowing the beer to almost fall out of the can.
This creates a mass of nitrogen bubbles creating a super thick dense head and the trademark cascading effect resulting in the super luxurious creamy beer.
Toucan play at that game
Big Toucan is our first foray into the world of nitro beers in a can, our very first nitro beer being a trial run of ‘Tonkoko Nitro’ back in 2019 that was only released in keg in a handful of local venues.
The main reason in the delay is down to the way it’s packaged, it being much harder to get the gas into the beer requiring specialist equipment.
With the new brewery we now have the ability to create these beers and now also to can this style of beer to the level of quality we desire so why not test it out on one of the most iconic beers about?
Big Toucan is a nitro stout which has that thick, creamy head and deep full-bodied flavour that is synonymous with this style. Give it a hard pour and watch the beautiful cascading foam fill your glass with joy.
Find Big Toucan in the webstore here.
We have added another iteration to our annual, much-anticipated, release of Empress Tonkoko with a super creamy and thick nitro milk stout.
The nitro element, achieved through our newly upgraded canning line, adds even bigger mouthfeel that increases the aroma and flavours to the max for a sumptuous and velvet finish.
To give the full cascading effect the nitrogen can give make sure to ‘hard pour’ the beer by opening and quickly upturning the beer into a glass (we’d recommend a pint glass to allow for space), this will produce the thick creamy head synonymous with that famous Irish stout and allow the velvety mouthfeel expected with a nitro beer.
Find the very latest Empress Tonkoko special pack online that includes Nitro Tonkoko here.