It took me a while, but I’ve come around to the can. I guess I had some bias to overcome. I grew up in the days when canned beer meant cheap, lousy, American light lagers in cans with pull-tabs that were littered everywhere and a real danger to anyone in bare feet. Even worse was the so-called innovation of the ‘push button’ top, where you’d have to push one small button on the can to release the pressure, then push the other ‘button’ on the can to open it (leading to many cut thumbs).
With improvements in can design (in both opening and in making sure the contents don’t pick up any metallic taste from the can), you can now find many excellent craft beer in cans. In fact, many of the more recent beer releases I’ve attended were to acquire beer that comes in cans. Firestone Walker Brewing Company has been canning beers for a while now (including those in their Luponic Distortion series, their Leo v Ursus series and, of course, Mocha Merlin), and now they’re pleased to announced the release of Nitro Merlin Milk Stout in cans.
Here is the full press release from Firestone Walker Brewing Company:
Paso Robles, CA: With a technological twist and a touch of wizardry, Firestone Walker’s Nitro Merlin Milk Stout is expanding from the keg and headed into the can.
“Our task was to create cans that perfectly replicate the draft experience of Nitro Merlin Milk Stout, from the beautiful foam to the smooth, creamy mouthfeel,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “After exploring all of our options, we settled on a widget-free canning technology that absolutely nails it.”
Nitro Merlin Milk Stout was released exclusively on draft two years ago as Firestone Walker’s first broad-market nitro beer—and it now becomes the brewery’s first-ever canned nitro beer, with six packs (12-ounce cans) rolling out to all Firestone Walker markets starting next week.
“Master The Surge Pour”
Nitro Merlin Milk Stout is best enjoyed out of a glass after a “surge pour” that maximizes the nitro presentation.
Accordingly, Nitro Merlin Milk Stout cans feature a “Master The Surge Pour” instructional graphic that demonstrates how to achieve the perfect pour: invert the can three times to agitate the nitrogen, then pour the beer hard into the center of the glass.
The surge pour provides a cascading “waterfall” effect—the dark beer temporarily whitens as the nitrogen bubbles rise to the top of the glass. Once the bubbles fully rise, the beer becomes brilliantly clear, and it is crowned with a strikingly rich head.
“The surge pour is easy to master, and it gives you that beautiful draft nitro presentation right out of the can,” Brynildson said. “The result is absolute art in a glass.”
Canned Without Widgets
Nitro Merlin Milk Stout cans are directly pressurized with pure nitrogen gas, without use of the “widgets” that are often employed in canned nitro beers.
“We looked at widgets, but couldn’t find a way to use them without exceeding our specs for total dissolved oxygen in the beer, which ultimately affects freshness and shelf life,” Brynildson said. “So we had to look elsewhere.”
The answer was to retrofit the brewery’s canning line with a liquid nitrogen drip machine. A drop of liquid nitrogen is released into the can, which immediately flashes off into nitrogen gas. As the can is filled and sealed, a portion of the gas fills the head space while the remainder remains suspended in solution—only to be released when the can is cracked by the beer drinker. The surge pour completes the effect, providing for a rich, creamy nitro stout experience.
“It took a lot of work to dial in everything on the canning line, but we are really happy with the result,” Brynildson said.
Milk & Cookies
The release of canned Nitro Merlin Milk Stout corresponds with the return of Firestone Walker’s “Milk & Cookies” promotion.
This promotion pairs the beer with cookies provided by Brown Butter Cookie Company. The company’s signature shortbread cookies are made with browned butter, brown sugar and vanilla with a touch of sea salt.
In addition to being offered during on-premise events, this pairing is now also available via in-store rebate.
“Brown Butter Cookie Company is a hometown favorite created by two sisters here on the Central Coast,” Brynildson said. “This is a pairing of local flavors that taste awesome together, so it’s worth seeking out.”
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Firestone Walker Brewing Company is a pioneering regional craft brewery founded in 1996 and located on the coast of California. Firestone Walker’s main brewery in Paso Robles produces a diverse portfolio ranging from iconic pale ales to vintage barrel-aged beers. The Barrelworks facility in Buellton makes eccentric wild ales, while the Propagator pilot brewhouse in Venice specializes in R&D beers and limited local offerings. For more information: FirestoneBeer.com.
This is not the first time we’ve seen a nitro beer in cans (or bottles) but Firestone went a step further, as described above, by retrofitting their canning line with a liquid nitrogen drip machine to ensure the head space in the can contains nitrogen gas (while the rest remains suspended in solution in the beer until you open it). Nitro Merlin Milk Stout released last week at the brewery and should start appearing in Seattle area craft beer shops any day now. No word yet on whether or not any of the shortbread cookies provided by Brown Butter Cookie Company will make it up here.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.