Budweiser Nitro Gold is a new nitrogenized spin on the typically carbonated lager.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated March 03, 2020

Way before beer innovations covered the gamut from fruity sour IPAs to fruity hard seltzers, Guinness grabbed drinkers’ attention in 1989 by debuting its “widget.” This small plastic nitrogen gas-releasing device included in cans of the brand’s signature stout was considered a breakthrough for packaging nitrogen beers. Other brands have followed suit, and now nitrogen beers—though still only a tiny percentage of beer sales—are more common, with many brewers looking to take advantages of the differences: Most beers are carbonated, causing explosive bubbles that can attack your palate; finer nitrogen bubbles quickly push to the head of a beer, creating a smoother drinking experience more comparable to lightly-carbonated cask brews.

Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch

Regular Bud is a prototypical example of a carbonated beer: a fizzy yellow lager. But for its latest offshoot—the fittingly-named Budweiser Nitro Gold—the brand is going the nitrogen route. And instead of utilizing a widget, Anheuser-Busch is also offering a more unorthodox twist on how the beer should be served: a system that requires counterintuitively shaking the can before opening. Don’t try this with a carbonated beer unless you’re celebrating a World Series win.

When serving a Bud Nitro Gold, Budweiser suggests shaking the 12-ounce can exactly three times “to infuse the nitrogen gas bubbles throughout” and then pouring the beer straight down the middle of the glass to achieve as much head as possible. As for the results, Budweiser states, “With notes of toasted caramel malt for a bold, flavorful taste, a silky-smooth finish, and a just-right 5.0 percent ABV [the same as regular Budweiser], this one-of-a-kind lager is captivating.” The new brew went on sale this week in both six- and twelve-packs.

The idea of a self-described “pouring ritual” that requires precisely three shakes may sound like more of a marketing gimmick than an absolute necessity, but Ricardo Marques, group vice president of marketing core and value brands at Anheuser-Busch, explained the logic to me. “The nitrogen bubbles are at the top of the can, so in order to hit peak refreshment, the drinker must flip the can several times in order for them to mix with the beer,” he told me. “If our recommended pouring ritual isn’t implemented the beer won’t be as smooth as it could be.”

Admittedly, I’m not a scientist, but part of the difference between nitrogen and carbon dioxide is that CO2 is soluble in beer, meaning it’s actually in the liquid, unlike nitrogen which will mix with beer but is far less soluble. Meanwhile, widget cans actually trap nitrogen that gets released when cracking the can changes the pressure, likely explaining why these cans don’t require shaking. So, translation, the “top of the can” explanation makes sense to me.

Meanwhile, Bud isn’t the first brand to suggest similar techniques when pouring nitro beers. Back in 2018, Canada’s Calabogie Brewing Company introduced a nitro stout and suggested a vigorous shake before opening the aluminum. And Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing—makers of one of the best-known nitro beers in the country, Milk Stout Nitro—markets its nitrogen beers, which use widgets, with the hashtag “#PourHard.” As a result, it would seem safe to say that, though counting to three is probably a bit much, shaking and pouring down the middle of the glass will result in a better experience with Budweiser Nitro Gold.

Still, though marketing a cool serving technique might grab people’s attention, in the end, a beer’s success will depend on whether it’s enjoyable to drink. Budweiser suggests that the nitrogen category in beer has been growing by double digits, but at the same time, nitrogen beers have been around for a while without taking the world by storm. It will be interesting to see if this unexpected new release can catch on, but let's just say I won’t be holding the carbon dioxide in my breath.