I think my obsession for Nitro has become contagious. Geoff got the wild idea of throwing a CO2 keg on our Nitro tap and seeing what would happen. Why would he do that? Because he’s certifiably insane. But also because, well, think about the possibilities! Not many breweries offer Nitro kegs, and if they do, it’s almost exclusively on their stouts. But if we could just take any old keg and hook it up to Nitro, we could do whatever we wanted to. Nitro IPAs all the time! Nitro Wits! Nitro… barleywines?! Good (Beer) God, that way lies madness!
So what’s the difference between a CO2 keg and a Nitro keg anyway? Well, here’s what we think (but don’t quote me on this as the mother-lovin’ Truth): regular CO2 kegs are usually “conditioned” by topping them off with CO2; nitrogen kegs are “conditioned” with a mix of CO2 and nitrous oxide at somewhere around a 70-30 ratio, respectively. Both kinds of kegs are then hooked up to their respective gas tanks when they’re ready to be tapped (regular kegs to C02, Nitro kegs to nitrogen).
We figured that if there’s CO2 in a Nitro conditioned keg anyway, what would be the harm of hooking up a regular CO2 tank to the nitrogen gas tank? Wouldn’t it come out creamy and thick, just like a regular Nitro beer?
So Geoff got a keg of regularly conditioned Pike’s XXXXX Stout to test the theory. On the bright side, the stout pours with that beautiful Nitro creaminess and soft pillow thickness; taste-wise, you’d never know it wasn’t intended to be that way when it was kegged. But there’s a catch—it takes FOREVER to settle and a lot of good beer goes the way of the foam. It takes about ten minutes just to pour a pint.
Now, we’ve had trouble with Nitro kegs before where they took awhile to settle and as we got through the keg, the settling improved and didn’t result in so much extra foam. We’re hoping that will eventually happen with this beer as well. In the meantime, here’s what I suggest: the Pike’s XXXXX Stout is really incredible on Nitro and shouldn’t be missed, but order it at the same time you’re ordering your first beer. That way, by the time you’ve polished off the first pint, the stout will have finished settling and there won’t be any waiting time where you might accidentally sober up.
As for the future of the Nitro tap, it’s good to know that we can put whatever we want on the tap and it will come out as Nitro goodness, but we’ll probably stick with Nitro conditioned kegs most of the time and break out the CO2 keg only when it’s a style we really want super thick and creamy.