The Most Hated Crate in Crash Bandicoot

Brewery and Country of Origin: Left Hand Brewing Company of 1265 Boston Avenue, Longmont, CO, 80501, USA

Date Reviewed: 2-11-13

Dedicated to our dog Shady, who was the best puppy any dog lover could have ever wished for.

Left Hand Brewing of Colorado is known for producing multiple widely distributed versions of their best selling beers. Last year, we tried both their standard bottled Milk Stout, and their Milk Stout Nitro. Of course, they don't really mean that if you drop a bottle of it on the floor, it'll violently explode. Today's lesson is brought to you by the letter N. As you would imagine from the two names, the difference between the two is of course, the use of Nitrogen (N), a primarily gaseous element with an atomic weight of 7. This is used as an alternative to more traditional Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is also used to carbonate soda and candies & baked goods. Plants also use CO2 to build themselves and respirate, but you're not here to learn any of that. The purpose of using Nitrogen rather than CO2 is all in the beer's foam head. All beers will have a foam head when poured. Some are only a few millimeters tall with a very weak retention and low density, and some can be over an inch and a half tall (depending on the glass), with a thick, creamy texture, a high density, and a solid retention. All of this depends on four things: the pour (how the bartender, server, or consumer pours the beer into the glass), the strain of yeast used, the glass the beer is served in, and the use of either Nitrogen or Carbon Dioxide. Both of these are good in their own right, but certain styles of beer will demand one, the other, or a combination of both. Traditionally, most beers were pressurized with Carbon Dioxide which was produced as a by product of fermentation unless distributed in nitro specific kegs. But you couldn't drink a "draught" like served beer from a can or bottle until 1964, when Guinness started injecting liquid nitrogen into bottles and cans before sealing. But this method was only distributed across Ireland as opening the can required a special "initiator" device which looked like a syringe and was rather complicated for consumers to deal with. The product was launched in 1979. Another method came from Guinness with the invention of the "widget." In the context of brewing, and packaging, a widget is a hollow device used to capture unwanted dissolved gas in a bottled or canned beer. the idea is that if liquid nitrogen is added to a beer prior to the container being sealed, it will expand, forcing other gasses, like naturally occuring CO2 and chemically harmful oxygen (O2) to be forced into the widget, usually similar to a table tennis ball with a very small hole in it. Speaking of nitro and explosives, the original project codename was "Project Dynamite," which wasn't received well with customs. This forced Guinness to rename the project Oaktree, an homage to the original idea's can system project named ACORN (Advanced Cans Of Rich Nectar). Cans of Guinness Draught with a widget at the bottom of the can were nationally launched in March 1989. Unfortunately, if the beer wasn't kept at an ideally cold temperature, they would rapidly overflow when opened. In 1997, a floating widget called the "Smoothifier" replaced the plastic disc in the previous version, and ameliorated this problem. Today, the floating widget is used in Guinness' Draught cans and bottles (though the bottles' widgets are shaped like bullets called "rockets") and sold around the world. Other breweries in Ireland and The UK quickly began using the concept of the widget and nitro filled beer for their maltier ales and stouts. Many breweries in The United States are adopting the practice as well. Because Nitrogen fed bubbles are smaller than CO2 bubbles, the density of the foam head rises, delivering a creamy, smooth texture which is desirable in malty beers, including Left Hand's Milk Stout and Sawtooth Ale.
Date Sampled: 1-19-13 At: Joshua Tree Somerville, 256 Elm Street, Somerville, MA, 02144, USA
Beer Style: Extra Special Bitter
Alcohol by Volume: 5.30%
Serving Type: Nitro Keg, 20 oz Tumbler Glass
Rating: 3.22


Like a true nitro served beer, this brew pours with a cool and dramatic cascading effect which takes a while to settle. The pour has an average level of turbulent action, producing very small bubbles which make up a creamy, three quarters inch foam head with a high density and a very good retention. The color is deep amber with a nice shine in the light. After settling, this beer displays a clean, filtered, and clear appearance. There is a moderately high amount of lacing on the glass.


The aroma is mild with only hints of this brew's main ingredients. A sweeter caramel malt character overall sets the tone for a weaker, yet balanced aroma which is supplemented with a small amount of nuttiness. There is no alcohol or hoppy bitterness in the aroma. The aroma has a slightly metallic tinge.


This is a medium light bodied beer which is pretty refreshing, mostly crisp, and easy to drink. There is a moderate level of carbonation with a slightly below average viscosity and weight. The finish is somewhat dry and bitter with a fair bit of lingering. There is no alcoholic warming, as this is a cooler, airier beer.


This beer has a mostly lighter, pale malt overtone with a somewhat sweet character. There may be some crystal or pale malt used, but there is no hint of any dark, roasted, or burnt flavor in the taste. There is a very small amount of hops at the tail end, giving way to a bitter and slightly dry finish with a moderate linger. Some nuttiness can also be found toward the beginning of the profile. This brew comes without an alcoholic tinge.

Our Take

If you were expecting something a bit more explosive, incendiary, or just flammable, you'll sadly be disappointed with this result. But if the word nitro means something different to you, then here is a good go to beverage for you're most likely going to enjoy. As always, we continue to suggest searching for a beer on tap rather than in a can, even if it is a nitro can, and if you can find it on a nitro tap, well, that simply makes the deal even sweeter. And despite this beer's rather mild flavor, it does have a sweet profile. Tame, but with a balanced flavor, and a crisp, lighter feeling beer, this is very easy to drink, offering a nice array of light beer feel, with some more quirky pale malty and hoppy notes. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a more robust experience, you'll want to look elsewhere. But for the sake of having a creamy, smooth texture with a great foam head, this refreshing beer is a good solution for an easy going, casual drinking brew.