POLYGAMY NITRO PORTER
UTAH'S SECOND-FAVORITE VICE, NOW IN BOTTLES
Hanging out with Greg Schirf is as enjoyable as quaffing back a perfect porter. As the founder of Wasatch Brewery and a true Utah beer pioneer, Greg Schirf’s role in the Utah craft beer scene is indispensible—frankly, we shudder to think where the state of beer in Utah would be without his efforts.
Greg opened Wasatch Brewery in 1986—no small feat, as this was Utah’s first brewery since Prohibition and the state’s first-ever brewpub. Wasatch has now been in business for 29 years, and during that time its beers have won many major awards.
So what’s the big news out of the Wasatch Brewery? Bottled nitro.
It’s a significant beer for multiple reasons. Perhaps most significantly, it's made Wasatch one of only two U.S. breweries to bottle nitro. Why are bottled nitros such a rarity? Because bottling nitrogen versus carbon dioxide (CO2) commonly used in beer is extremely difficult.
“It took Dan Burick—our director of brewing—me, and three other guys putting our heads together,” Greg says. “Between the five of us we have over 100 years of brewing experience. There was a lot of research and development involved, a lot of trial and error. Sometimes we’d think we had it, and then we’d check the beer after a couple of weeks and plan another test; with a nitro, conditions have to be perfect.”
“I got my first beer buzz in Ireland drinking Guinness,” he adds. “My parents took the whole family. My sisters were sliding the beers they couldn’t finish over to me. That's probably why I have a soft spot for nitros.”
Another newsworthy attribute of this nitro brew? It’s a new spin on a Wasatch classic. The original Polygamy Porter was brewed in 2001, when it received a good deal of attention, both for its chocolaty, malty flavor and its tongue-in-cheek “can he say that?” branding. (For the uninitiated, the beer’s name, label illustration, and taglines [“Why have just one?” “Take some home to the wives,” and “I've tried Polygamy”] are a lighthearted jab at a past Mormon marriage practice—and possibly also at uninformed non-Utahns who think the practice is still in play.)
“Polygamy Porter is my favorite beer, and as I got older, I decided it really was underrated,” Greg says, “We felt that, with so many breweries popping up, creating a bottled nitro version would be a good business niche, a way to distinguish ourselves and really carve out something unique.”
The original Polygamy Porter has been awarded a Gold and Silver World Beer Cup, winning the session category, which means it's brewed with less alcohol at 4.0% ABV, while the new Polygamy Nitro Porter measures in at 6.0% ABV.
Wasatch Brewery's proprietary method of adding nitrogen to the beer “creates millions of tiny little bubbles that cascade and roll over each other, then bind to create a creamy foam,” says Greg, “Aesthetically, it’s beautiful; the dark beer and the light, creamy foam.”
The texture of nitro beer surprises many first-time nitro drinkers; it’s like eating mousse if all you’ve ever had is sponge cake. The best way to enjoy it from the bottle is to pour it somewhat vigorously into the glass—none of that slow, careful, painstaking pouring, no holding your glass at a 39.5-degree angle. Nitrogen bubbles need more stimulation in order to create that beautiful balance between dark beer and light, creamy foam and that velvety smooth texture and taste.