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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.