What it is: Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Co. is one of the few breweries to have mastered bottling nitro beer — carbonated with nitrogen rather than the customary carbon dioxide. Those tight, fizzy bubbles found in most beers and sodas and sparkling water? That’s carbon dioxide. Nitro is a tighter, smoother form of carbonation that arguably unmasks a beer’s flavor and aroma with a thicker, creamier body. Left Hand has released three nitro beers available year-round: its legendary Milk Stout, Sawtooth Ale (an English special bitter) and Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout. Hard Wired, a porter made with 650 pounds of coffee per batch, was released in late January as the brewery’s first seasonal offering on nitro.
In the bottle: The pour is important to most beers, but with a nitro beer, it’s essential. Poured hard into a 16-ounce pub glass, Hard Wired cascades in a glorious mocha flurry before settling nearly pitch-black with a thick tan head. An alluring aroma combines the expected rich black coffee notes with milk chocolate and tobacco. Breathe deeply and you can detect the lack of tiny CO2 bubbles, but they’re hardly missed. Those bubbles aren’t missed on the tongue, either.
Hard Wired offers a fleeting wisp of light chocolate sweetness that gives way quickly to a powerful coffee punch that reminds me more of espresso than the average cup of drip coffee. In a creamy nitro body, it’s even more robust. Tons of roast and char imbue this beer, and with less chocolate sweetness than I expected. But for a coffee fan, the bitterness is quite welcome, and finishes surprisingly clean, thanks partly to its relatively moderate alcohol content. The nitro creaminess serves this beer well, especially with a strength that makes “espresso porter” a better description.
Alcohol: 6 percent.
Drink it with: Any rich meaty dish would do well beside Hard Wired, from a hamburger to stew. Or it sits finely on its own at the bar after a long day of work.
Find it: Available through April in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles and on draft.
More information: lefthandbrewing.com/beers/hard-wired-nitro