Tour de brew: Nitro Fest

The smoother side of brew

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Susan France

He handed me the taster and I watched as the fine nitrogen bubbles rushed up the beer to the surface, spreading out along the smooth, mousse-like foam of the head before cascading back down the side of the glass. The allure was undeniable, like watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glide effortlessly along the floor. As I lifted the glass to my nose, coffee and chocolate sprung from the nitrogenated beer and danced up into my brain.

“It’s a peanut butter porter,” the representative from Liquid Mechanics yelled at me, raising his voice over the din of the music. “It’s experimental.”

“How come?” I asked, taking my first sip of the beer — a liquid peanut butter cup, velvety, smooth and delectable.

“It’s experimental because it doesn’t fit anywhere else,” the representative tried to convey before being overwhelmed by the thunder of Beats Antique. The band’s electronic fusion filled the tent, a woman spun acrobatics 15 feet in the air and a crowd of onlookers, sporting their best steampunk costumes, watched, applauded and raised a glass to their good fortune.

This is Nitro Fest in Longmont’s Roosevelt Park, and it’s a beautiful thing. My associate took little notice of the action, consumed instead with the deliciousness of the BBQ tofu provided by Longmont’s Samples World Bistro. I took another sip of the pillowy porter and let it all in.

Experimental indeed.

“Left Hand’s history and role with nitro goes back a bunch of years,” representative Josh Goldberg told me. “We’ve been highlighting and developing and really bringing to popularity the nitro concept.”

Nitro Fest is Goldberg’s way to get that word out, not just to drinkers, but brewers as well. Featuring more than 30 different breweries — many of whom do not regularly nitrogenate their beer — Nitro Fest is like a scientist’s workshop in public.

“Some maybe dabble with it in their tasting room but never go to market,” Goldberg said. “We’re breaking down the walls of their tasting room and bringing them to Longmont.”

But some of those beers never even see the tasting room. Such as New Belgium’s Oscar Worthy Coffee, a beer that is only available to festivals like Nitro Fest.

“It’s a small, small batch,” Brian Pann from New Belgium Brewing said. “It’s only for special events.”

Pann went on to explain that only twentyish kegs of the brew exist, which is a crying shame considering how delicious the beer is. What starts with coffee and toast on the nose transforms into a pure sour on the palate with consistent quality all the way through.

Pann explained that the brewing process is too complex to produce en masse, but New Belgium likes to bring the goods to smaller festivals like this one. That is why one must come to Nitro Fest, to taste the hidden gems that these familiar haunts have to offer.

My associate handed me a glass of Freemont Brewing’s Dark Star Spice Wars Variation, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout that has the heft of a nice scotch. While we sip, the representative from Seattle explained that, “nitro beers are popular throughout our whole industry.”

It didn’t need to be said. The whole tent was teeming with people clamoring for nitro beer. With any luck, those experiments will make their way to a wider audience and, if the general population is anything like those costumed, thirsty individuals packed into the tent erected in Roosevelt Park, then nitro will be a thing of regularity.