This week I take a look at the growing popularity of nitrogen taps as a way to serve craft beer.
Nitro taps aren’t new – they’ve been around for decades in the UK, where they were introduced as an efficient way to replicate the mouthfeel generated by a handpull running through a sparkler.
This UK introduction has now been picked up by craft brewers in the New World, and, like many older UK beer traditions, has been given a new twist. It’s no longer limited to tied taps flogging Guinness or Boddingtons. Now craft beer bars are experimenting with nitro pouring, and finding out how they work with craft beer styles.
As the article demonstrates, nitro taps can be polarising. To some they are nothing but a lazy way to replace tradition, an inferior substitute for right proper handpulls. Others see nitro as a valid pouring technology in its own right.
Here’s the thing about substitutes – if you treat Thing B as a substitute for Thing A, then B will inevitably, by definition, be inferior. Fortunately, us humans are very good at discovering merits in new technology, so one person’s Inferior-substitute-to-be-scorned will be someone else’s Innovative-technology-to-be-explored.
As Three Boy's Ralph Bungard said to me this week, "It's hard to criticise nitro taps when microbrewers are being so experimental and adding all sorts of things to beer at the moment".
Taking an analogy close to my heart, modern music would never have happened if musos saw the electric bass guitar as nothing more than a substitute for an upright double bass, fit only for the same old jazz, country and rock-a-billy. So I like people who seek out merit in new things.
If everyone stuck to what they've always had, no one would be buying craft beer.