Would you like some nitrogen with your beer? If you’re not sure, you’re probably not alone. Despite the many diverse roads America’s craft beer scene has led drinkers down, nitrogen beers are still a relative rarity—most often seen in Guinness. But Sam Adams is hoping that swapping the gas in their brews could be the next hot trend, releasing a line of nitro beers on draft and in specially designed cans.
Whether or not you like nitrogen beers, they certainly are different than your standard carbonated affair. To hear Sam Adams describe it, they talk about carbonation bubbles leading to “more pronounced acidity” and “texture.” Taste-wise, I often find nitro beers have similarities to cask ales because of this lack of carbonation bite, though the nitrogen still gives the beer a substantial head and creamy mouthfeel.
The lean toward creaminess is one of the reasons the best known nitro beers—such as Guinness and Left Hand Milk Stout—are stouts. That makes Sam Adams Nitro Coffee Stout probably the most obvious of their first three nitro offerings. The other two are a Nitro IPA and a Nitro White Ale. It also probably explains why, of Sam’s three introductory nitro beers, the Coffee Stout is the most drinker-friendly—though the Nitro IPA certainly isn’t bad and actually makes for a nice change of pace on the palate, which I guess is the whole point.
I definitely enjoyed Sam Adams Nitro IPA more than the Guinness Nitro IPA released last year. The introduction of the two beers so close together is probably not a coincidence. And the admittedly cool canned packaging that Sam Adams’s nitro beers come in will remind many people of Guinness as well. Similar to the much discussed “widget” included in nitrogen cans of Irish stout, Sam Adams’s cans have a “nitrogenator” tucked in the base. Sam Adams founder Jim Koch was nice enough to rip a can open with his teeth and show us the white plastic piece inside. (True story!)
But current trends aside, the brewer says nitro has been on his mind for a long time. “We started experimenting with nitro beers in the mid-1990s when we brewed a Boston Cream Ale and over the years, I’d estimate we brewed more than 50 beer styles and worked with 200 recipes to ultimately create these three unique beers,” Koch said in a press release. And if nitro feels like a fad, the company says otherwise, claiming “more beers to come!”
Overall, if you like nitrogen beers, Sam Adams has put three more competent options on the market for you—though I am left wondering just how many of you are actually out there.