There are some things in life us normal folk are just happy to take for granted. Like the touch screen on your smart phones. Or how the MBTA (sort of) shuttles so many people around every morning. Or on what planet a bear can be so darn good at the keytar.
Or, if you’re a beer drinker of a particular palate, how non-CO2-carbonated beers like Guinness can pour so silky smooth from a can, as if fresh from the tap.
I can’t pretend to know Keytar Bear personally, but I can offer a little insight into the beer thing, thanks to a video Sam Adams posted to its Facebook page Monday – titled: “#KnowMoreMonday – How does the widget work?” – and some intel from the brewers behind the curtain.
Sam Adams just unveiled its #NitroProject, a line of nitrogen-infused beers aimed at broadening the scope of nitro-beers beyond just Stouts (like the aforementioned Guinness). Sam’s offerings include: Nitro White Ale, Nitro IPA, and Nitro Coffee Stout.
At the bottom of each can sits a “Widget.” In the case of Guinness, that means a small, plastic ball with a hole in it that serves in agitating your brew once the top is cracked, rising to the top and thus providing the thick, creamy head synonymous with beers of this variety.
Sam Adams, though – like it did with the beer can itself back in 2013 – didn’t use the technology readily available on the market already; it sourced one it thought would work better for its purposes.
“The can technology is not proprietary but it’s very difficult, so there aren’t many breweries out there that are currently offering nitro beers in cans using the ‘nitrogenator’ as we like to call it. Our cans (which we get from England) hold 15 oz. of beer, with 1 oz. reserved for the white, ‘hat- shaped’ nitrogenator,” Boston Beer Company Founder Jim Koch told me. “When we decided to release our Nitro Project beers, we experimented with different options – bottles and cans with and without nitrogenators – but ultimately felt the can with the nitrogenator delivered the best drinking experience for our beers.”
So, not surprisingly, when Koch decided to offer a new line of beers, a domino effect of other products and supply chain alterations had to follow suit. The “nitrogenator,” it turns out, is manufactured by Ball Corporation, which produce the ubiquitous mason jar, among many other innovations.
And as opposed to other such widgets, which rise once the beer is cracked, theirs is affixed to the bottom of the can.
“We also had to invest in updates to our canning line to accommodate for the nitro beers as well as create a glass that we think creates the best possible drinking experience for our nitro beers,” said Koch. “It’s important to note that once a can is popped open, the pressure from the nitro is so intense, you should immediately pour the beer into a glass to experience the cascade and signature nitro mouthfeel.”
The video below is quick, so I don’t want to spoil it. But let’s just say the nitrogenator is another marvel of modern technology you can happily take for granted.