Beer Review: Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout Nitro

Beer time!
Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout Nitro uses secret technology to create a smooth, creamy bottled nitrogen beer. — image courtesy of Left Hand Brewing

Nitrogen beers such as Guinness are served on draft using a pressurized mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, that results in a beer with a velvety smooth, creamy mouthfeel and little carbonation. Because nitrogen has a low solubility in liquid (meaning it cannot be dissolved), beers poured “on nitro” feature a distinctive cascade of bubbles that is caused by rising nitrogen.

It isn’t easy to recreate the nitrogen draft effect with a bottle or can. Most breweries have found that the best way to provide a similar experience is by using a widget, a capsule that rolls around in the bottle or can and releases a small amount of nitrogen when the beer is opened. However, Left Hand Brewing is doing things differently. In 2011, the Left Hand Brewing Company became the first American and craft brewery to successfully bottle nitrogen beer without a widget.

How do they infuse nitrogen into a bottled beer without using a widget? Left Hand is keeping that a secret. Regardless of whatever magic is happening at the Colorado brewery, the result of Milk Stout Nitro is a draft-quality nitrogen beer that disappears from the glass almost as quickly as it is filled.

Serving type: 12-ounce bottle. Best to drink by Jan. 20, 2015.

Appearance: Left Hand recommends pouring their nitro series beers “hard,” which means popping the cap and turning the bottle completely upside down and pouring into a vertical standing 16-ounce glass. The thought of doing this a little disconcerting, but it really works: A hard pour produces the classic and gradual cascade of rising nitrogen bubbles. A finger-width of thick, meringue-like, tan foam develops and remains throughout the pint. The color of the beer is non-opaque black.

Aroma: Roasty and a little sweet. A light, roasted bitterness is most prominent and followed by oats, dark chocolate and milk-like lactose. There is also a touch of black licorice.

Taste: The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy due to the lactose added to the milk stout and also the nitrogen in the beer. The roasted bitterness is present but not overpowering, allowing the other flavors to shine. A mocha-like flavor and bitterness lingers on the taste buds.

Drinkability: This is tasty stuff and makes for a delicious summer evening dessert. Since it is a stout though, it will be fitting in colder months, too.

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