While Guinness has been using nitrogen for its signature stout for about 60 years, the Irish company’s latest offering, a nitro India pale ale, is one of many new beers getting the nitro treatment:

Guinness joins Sam Adams, as well as a handful of smaller craft brewers offering nitro beers, including Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery and Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Company. Nitro beer can be served from a keg, and some breweries have, like Guinness, developed gadgets to facilitate nitrogen infusion in a can or bottle.

The expansion of the nitro technique to non-stout beers is somewhat unexpected, Shellhammer said.

“It’s a little bit counterproductive,” he said. “IPAs are all about aroma,” he explained, and the foam on a nitro beer keeps aromatics from leaving the beer. But for those IPAs that are particularly bitter, nitro “is potentially a way to soften that.” It’s also, of course, a way for breweries to stand out in a crowded craft beer market.

When it comes to nitro coffee, this summer’s coolest way to get wired, those tiny nitrogen bubbles change how your mouth interprets the flavor. Nitro coffee tastes sweeter and creamier, even without milk or sugar, thanks to the way nitrogen bubbles interact with your taste buds. “It makes the cold brew seem smoother, denser,” said Diane Aylsworth, vice president of cold brew at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. “It tricks your palate.”

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