Today let’s talk tiny bubbles! There are several different means of carbonating beer. Knowing the difference is pretty important as the different ways of carbonating beer can affect your beer drinking experience a TON.
First up, NITRO! We’ve all seen on tap lists a beer we have drank before, but it is listed as “on nitro”. What this means is that the beer is carbonated with a mixture of around 70% nitrogen and 30% carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of just straight CO2. The result is a cascading look to the beer as it is settling and a much creamier beer with a thicker mouthfeel as opposed to the usual sharper carbonation found in most beers. Nitro was typically used just on stouts, but now is also used on IPAs and some Scotch Ales. Give it a try, especially with a good stout!
Next up let’s do a two-fer! BOTTLE CONDITIONED and FORCED CARBONATION. These are two ways that brewers carbonate beer. Forced carbonation is exactly like it sounds. CO2 is artificially forced into a beer vessel which causes the CO2 to be absorbed into the beer. Bottle conditioned on the other hand is more of a natural process. The beer is bottled often with a sugar to feed the viable yeast still in the beer. The yeast eats the sugar and gives off CO2 as a byproduct. Since the bottle is capped, the CO2 can’t escape. As pressure builds up, the only place for the CO2 to go is back into the beer. BOOM! Carbonation!
The final bubbly term is actually not so bubbly, HAND PUMP. A hand pump is a manual means of getting beer into your glass. These are fairly rare as it is a pretty old school way of doing things. Normally it will be some sort of specialty beer that is on a hand pump. The result is a pretty much flat beer, and often not very cold. I have had two beers from two different places from a hand pump. Honestly, not my thing and I probably won’t be giving this a third try. It is a neat novelty, but I like my beer good and carbed up!
There you go, all you need to know about bubbles and the ways they get into beer. Time to go take those fancy tap lists by storm!
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