Innovation is something that can get lost in the sea that is craft beer. One brewery’s breakthrough – be it a new style, a different spin on a classic, or a Malibu Stacy-esque marketing tactic for those with short attention spans – can get lost years or even months later. And that’s just on the surface when it comes to consumer-facing innovations, we're not even factoring what those knee-deep in the science of brewing are cooking up.
The special ingenuities that have been bestowed on the craft beer community deserve to be celebrated. Left Hand Brewing is probably recognized most for its Milk Stout, but its nitrogen-infused version is something different altogether, a unique vessel that feels like it’s been around far longer than it actually has. Yes, it's been six years since Milk Stout Nitro was first bottled, but yet it still hasn't been given the recognition it truly deserves.
For ages, if you wanted a nitro beer, you had to pick up old favorite Guinness, or you had to have a hookup at home. That is, until Left Hand Brewing Company brought the nitro to homes across the country. The first sighting was in bottles at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, which made Left Hand the first American and first craft brewery to offer a nitro beer without a widget like the one Guinness uses.
The natural beauty Colorado has to offer is usually enough of a hook for us to head west, but the folks at Left Hand were nice enough to distribute Nitro Milk Stout throughout the country and save us a trip to the mountains. Now we all have the chance to take take the path less traveled within the confines of our own homes.
Milk Stout's nitro provides a silky cloak that puts a whole new spin on a great beer.”
Left Hand’s bottled version doesn’t have the nitro trigger of the can, so a hard pour is necessary to get the bubbles flowing. The bubbles cascade for about a minute, creating a pillowy, creamy quarter-inch head.
It had been a few years since my last Milk Stout Nitro, and while I enjoyed it, another wrinkle emerged with this most recent tasting. Nitro transformed the experience into something very similar to the one you might have with chocolate milk – not a beer that represents a take on chocolate milk, but straight up, slightly thicker chocolate milk. I would love to blind test it on an unsuspecting chocolate milk junkie. The only obvious signs that this is actually a beer are a welcome roastiness and a nearly non-existent presence of alcohol.
Because I was curious to see if there would be a difference, I also picked up a can, which Left Hand debuted this year. It features a U.S. widget instead of the ball found in a can of Guinness. The consistency was as remarkable as the innovation – the beer in that 13.65-ounce can was indistinguishable in sight and taste from its bottled counterpart, with the added bonus of mobility.
Milk Stout's nitro provides a silky cloak that puts a whole new spin on a great beer in the same way as the nitro does with Founders Breakfast Stout, a beast of a brew on its own that's taken to a deliciously chocolatey level when delivered the same way. Nitro can take beers you might've taken for granted and elevate them with a creaminess that's perfectly complementary.