Tuesday, March 24th 2015
Nitro Cans Go Widget-Less
Yardley, Pennsylvania’s Vault Brewing Company is set to make craft beer history this weekend when cans of their Nitro Can Coffee Stout are released to the public. The 12 oz. cans may look like any others but inside is something altogether different. Inside those cans is a rich, roasty, coffee stout that - unlike any other craft beer in a can - has been nitrogenized without the use of a widget. That’s right. No widget.
Nitrogenized/nitrogenated - or just plain Nitro - beers are a big deal in the craft world. Last year Oskar Blues became the first in the industry to release acanned nitro beer when they dropped Old Chub Nitro – a nitrogenized version of their Old Chub Scotch Ale. A few months ago, Saranac Brewing Company released nitro cans of their Disruption Brown Ale – becoming the first east coast brewer to can a nitro beer and just the second in the country to do so. Both Old Chub Nitro and Disruption Brown Ale are packaged in cans that feature a floating “widget” – a technology pioneered by Guinness in the 70s and 80s.
To perfect the widget-less nitro can, Vault Brewing worked closely with River City Cannery, a mobile canning operation based in Arlington, Virginia, and Chart Industries, an international cryogenics company. We wanted to learn more about Vault’s Nitro Can Coffee Stout and this revolutionary packaging process so we reached out to James Cain, Co-Founder at Vault Brewing. James was kind enough to answer all of our questions. Cheers James!
(CC) Are any other craft brewers packaging their beer in a widget-less nitro can?
(JC) Unless they have kept it really, really quiet, no.
(CC) What sort of process is involved with canning a nitro beer?
(JC) It has to do with how the beer becomes nitrogenated. Nitrogen has a very low solubility rate in beer and requires a lot of pressure to force it to dissolve into a solution. Once it is dissolved, it doesn’t want to stay long and will immediately begin degassing as soon as there is a pressure change (like you’d see on a nitro tap or when you open one of our cans). The challenge in canning involves understanding the properties of nitrogen and how to best introduce it into the beer during the packaging process. Other variables, such as beer CO2 levels, pressure, and temperature play significant roles in producing a perfect nitro can.
(CC) What can you tell me about the beer itself?
(JC) This specific beer is one of many Coffee Stouts we’ve been producing over the years. We’re very passionate about coffee and its relationship to beer and believe there is a great opportunity to highlight origin specific flavor profiles in a complimenting beer, rather than just add arbitrary “coffee” to a finished stout. In this particular beer, we sourced Guatemalan and Papua New Guinea beans and had them roasted to our specifications by a local roaster. The result of this blend added notes of caramel, hazelnut, peanut butter, and cacao to the base beer and resulted in a really nice, rounded coffee & beer flavor pairing.
(CC) Is this something that we can expect to see a lot more of in the future? Are other breweries expressing interest?
(JC) You will certainly see a lot more from us in the future, in both coffee beers and other nitro can variants. As for other breweries, we’ll have to see. We’re open to collaborations…
(CC) Does Vault plan on doing any other Nitro beers?
(JC) Nitro beers are an important component of our beer dispensing program and you can always find them on tap at the brewpub. In terms of cans, we plan on experimenting with other styles as well.
(CC) When and where are cans being released?
Posted by Russ