If you've tried beer on nitro tap, you'll understand the brouhaha surrounding one brewery's struggle with trademarking a popular brew which, through mysterious technological magic, harnesses that great power into a bottle.
Most beers are pressurized by carbon dioxide — it's still pretty rare to find a bar with nitrogen taps, which use about 70% nitrogen and 30% carbon dioxide (and specially reinforced equipment) to produce a higher-pressure pour. The result: smaller, longer lasting carbonation bubbles, thicker foam and a smoother mouthfeel. The technique is particularly suited for porters and stouts, which dispense from nitrogen taps creamier and more flavorful than with CO2 alone.
Here's where Longmont, CO's Left Hand Brewing comes in. Left Hand was the first brewery to release a nitrogenated bottled beer with their Milk Stout Nitro, a dark cascading rush of brown sugar, vanilla and roasted coffee that's a cult favorite among craft beer fans. Seeking to trademark the names "Nitro" and "Milk Stout Nitro" for their brews, Left Hand has received numorous complaints that owning the terms would discourage other breweries from developing their own nitro styles. Left Hand responded in a statement:
"We are seeking to protect the name of our best selling products that we have spent a significant amount of time and resources to develop, not the style – not nitrogenated beers. Unfortunately, much of what we are seeing being picked up by media and shared recently is to the contrary. We do not wish to halt craft innovation or stop nitro-style beers from being produced or poured. We are simply trademarking the name our bottled beer has become so well known for."
They go on to mention a trip to fellow Longmont craft brewers and known can-masters Oskar Blues, where they celebrated the brewery's release of Old Chub Nitro in cans (also in the process of being trademarked) and assure the public that they are in no way seeking to prevent others from utilizing the technique.
We can only hope other breweries will follow suit and implement their own nitro technology, because whether it's from a can or bottle or straight from the tap, nitro beer is a treat worth the controversey.
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