Firestone Walker Brewing Company

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category-iconBeer Reviews

Nitro Merlin Makes for Mouthfeel

January 23, 2018

By Matt Osgood, January 23, 2018

Of the many ways a person can proclaim their beer geekery, claiming an absolute affection for nitro beers is perhaps the geekiest. This stuff is usually announced in an online forum or, at best, in front of a group of people who mostly don’t care. It announces, “Not only am I opting for a beer that is nuanced, low in alchool, and dark, but I’m also opting to drink said beer at a lower temperature and carbonation level.” Bonus beer geek points for me here (they’re awarded and refundable at the Great American Beer Fest, I think).

By nitrogenating beers (i.e. treating a beer with nitrogen, as opposed to carbon dioxide), brewers take about half the carbonation away from the beer. F-W brewmaster Matt Bryndilson says in a video that this process makes “the mouthfeel very smooth” and calls the visual effect of a nitro beer, “Absolute art in a glass.” It should be added that “nitrogenize” is a new word in my vocabulary, but I will continue to drop it on unsuspecting beer drinking friends.

To add to the beer nerd factor of this beer, Firestone-Walker suggests you pair this beer with cookies. In a statement that might explain my aversion to pastry stouts, I’m not much of a sweet tooth. But the pairing, a brown butter cookie with sea salt from the Brown Butter Cookie Co. is a natural fit for the stout. Milk and cookies being perhaps the greatest of post-dinner snacks (don’t @ me), the only thing better is milk stout and cookies.

As for the beer, the beer is good. I mean, let’s be honest: The beers made by Firestone-Walker range on a scale from good to world-class. There’s not a bad beer in their lineup. And part of the exceptionalism of Firestone-Walker is that they make the consumption of their beers an experience. Whether that experience is a well-made pilsner in proper glassware, a brown-boxed anniversary ale to celebrate a milestone, or a simple after-dinner milk stout and cookies, F-W really knows how to set the mood.

We need more nitro beers with full or seasonable availability.”

The “surge pour,” as it’s called, is nothing more than dumping the beer into the center of a glass. A hard pour, as it’s commonly known, and the nitrogen will prevent the beer from toppling over the edges. It is, as Bryndilson says, a thing of beauty. The foam cascades in the glass, making for a perfect visual and a tight, sandy colored head atop a pitch-black beer.

The body is soft and nuanced, a veritable pillow of a beer, with regard to mouthfeel. There’s notes of chocolate and the roasted malts create a slight coffee bitterness that interacts well with the nitrogenated body, akin to adding cream to a coffee. This is an incredibly palatable beer: Easy to drink, quaffable, and sessionable.

I’m deducting a few points on this score because I think this would be a far superior beer on tap, poured properly, and served at the perfect temperature. This is not F-W’s fault. It’s mine. I’m an insatiable animal that wants to commence drinking immediately.

We need more nitro beers with full or seasonable availability. We’re so used to spending our beer money on over-priced, high alcohol dark beers that come in individual packages. Why not spend it on a six-pack of a beer that will go great with cookies?

Or, in the best circumstance, allow you to establish beer geek street cred by saying, “I love nitro beers.”     

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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