The smooth sensation of nitrogen bubbles is exactly what makes Guinness Draught and La Colombe draft lattes so irresistible. It’s less the prickly feeling of effervescence than the sheer silk on your tongue, as the bubbles create a whole new texture in the drink.
Now, America’s most popular beer brand, Budweiser, will begin infusing its own beer with nitrogen. Parent company Anheuser-Busch has projected double-digit growth in the nitrogen category, and it wants its new beer, Budweiser Nitro Reserve Gold, to take a chunk of that market. The beer is flavored like a malty lager you’d expect from an American brew, but, you know, with the extra added pizzazz of nitrogen.
Nitro Reserve Gold is slated to be a permanent addition to Anheuser-Busch’s portfolio, but its can features a quirky design that requires beer drinkers to learn a whole new ergonomic around pouring beer, which Budweiser dubs the “ritual.”
Grab a can of Guinness, and you’ll notice that there’s a weird object clanging around inside the can, because nitrogen brews are packaged differently than normal CO2-bubbling beers (the nitrogen is an added gas, while the CO2 is formed naturally during the fermentation process by yeast burps). Since 1959, Guinness has added that nitrogen froth to its beers. To capture the sensation in a can, they literally pour in liquid nitrogen, then seal the containers quickly. The nitrogen dissolves into the beer, but to ensure the right texture, Guinness developed a patented widget, or what’s basically a plastic submarine with a hole in the middle. As the nitrogen pressurizes the can, excess gas and some beer is pushed into the widget. When you open the can, the pressure drops, and the gas is released from the widget. As a result, you get nitrogen homeostasis and a fantastic, creamy head.