Nitro beers and milk stouts are niche categories, but that’s just fine if you ask Chris Lennert, the vice president of operations at Left Hand Brewing Company.
“We’re still niche as an industry,” Lennert said.
Lennert and other executives at Left Hand embrace the niche so much that they’re willing to play a hunch and expand the brewery’s most popular brand, Milk Stout Nitro. Left Hand introduced its take-home version of the product — the first nitrogen beer in a bottle without a widget — two years ago at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Now, the company is releasing two additional bottled, nitro offerings: Sawtooth ESB and Wake Up Dead Russian Imperial Stout.
“Why not continue to innovate and let people enjoy some of our other styles at home?” Lennert said.
Lennert said that he’s considered this nitro line extension since the initial rollout of Milk Stout Nitro. He always envisioned multiple “Nitro” brands, sitting next to one another on retail shelves, creating the coveted billboard effect. Two years later, Lennert has realized this vision, ready to hit the market with these products that use “Nitro” as not just a beer descriptor, but also as a larger brand.
“It already gives [consumers] a comfort level,” he said.
Lennert imagines two different kinds of consumers approaching these beers. If a craft beer diehard walks by a shelf and sees “Nitro,” he or she might understand the creamier difference of the style compared to the more traditional craft offerings carbonated with carbon dioxide. A beer drinker less familiar with the nuances of beer-making might simply remember their first experience with Milk Stout Nitro and purchase the new beers out of curiosity.
Left Hand has poured both Sawtooth and Wake Up Dead on draft for several years, but the inspiration for the nitro extensions sprouted from the success of Milk Stout Nitro and the desire for consumers to enjoy the beers at home.
Sawtooth Nitro, which has a 5.3 percent ABV, will be sold year-round in 6-packs for a suggested retail price of $8.99. The beer has smooth, nutty malt flavors balanced with herbal hops and should be poured hard.
Wake Up Dead Nitro, which has a 10.2 percent ABV, will be available in 4-packs for a suggested retail price of $9.99. Because of the extended fermentation time needed to properly make the beer, Wake Up Dead Nitro will only be available two to three times per year, Lennert said.
“When you can get it you can get it,” he said.
Hitting shelves this Friday, the new releases will be available exclusively in Colorado for the remainder of the year and will roll out nationally in 2014.