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Got Gas? An Explanation of Beer Can Widgets

Getting a beer from the tap is one of the great pleasures of beer enjoyment. But what can you do if you are at home and you don’t have your own tap from which to pour? An invention called a Widget has you covered!

According to Wikipedia:

A widget is a device placed in a container of beer to manage the characteristics of the beer’s head.

The head is the bubbly portion above the liquid when the beer is poured. The head is a big reason for the increase in beer enjoyment when obtained from a tap rather than a bottle.

What exactly is a Widget?

That’s not a ping pong ball… it’s a Widget! (Photo via Wired.com)

Invented by Guinness, the widget allows for pub type enjoyment of beer in your own home. It is a small plastic ball filled with nitrogen gas. It also has a small hole in it. Placed into the beer can, the widget floats patiently while waiting for you to crack the beer open.

When a can with a widget is opened, the nitrogen escapes the ball and infuses the beer with tiny bubbles that become nucleation points. This allows the CO2 to separate from the beer and build the beautiful and creamy head. There is a beautiful cascading effect where the bubbles near the edge of the glass actually move downward. Watching the fine bubbles cascade and form a smooth delineation between beer and head is one of the most enjoyable things about pouring beer.

How should I pour it?

When I enjoy a widget beer I usually crack it open and pour it straight down into the middle of the glass. I have never had a widget beer overflow on me. But apparently I am doing it wrong.

Let’s learn how to pour a widget beer from the Guinness Master Brewer, Fergal Murray.

UPDATE: This video has been made private since I posted this article.

Did you notice the cascading bubbles? So beautiful!

What beers have widgets?

UPDATE June 4th, 2015: I originally had an image here but I had mistakenly only linked to the original blog post from where it originated rather than provide textual credit in the caption. I have received permission to use the image and I strongly recommend you read the Beer With Widgets article from Chris Forman at Burgers And Beer Food Reviews. He does a great job (much better than I did) at explaining the widget as well as providing reviews of the beers in the image. Chris, please accept my apology. Here is the photo that Chris captured:

Photo Credit: Chris Forman of burgersandbrewsfoodreviews.blogspot.com

Notice anything about those beers? All of the beers in Chris’ image are English, Irish, or Scottish. (Note: He used a separate image for Guinness, which otherwise would have joined these beers)

I have had all except the Tetley’s and the John Smith’s as shown above. The most recent was Old Speckled Hen. Of those shown above I would saw my favorite is the Boddington’s Pub Ale.

There are breweries here in the US that are starting to utilize nitrogen in their beers. One of those is Left Hand Brewing which makes a Nitro Milk Stout. These do not use a nitrogen widget. Rather, they are already infused with the nitrogen, which gets busy once the beer is opened.

The foamy head and smooth characteristic of nitro beers is one that produces a love/hate relationship with many people. I happen to love a smooth nitro beer and I am looking forward to more nitro beers being available. Do you have any preference about nitro beers?

BGR: Guildhall

I’ve had the privilege of playing Guildhall four times now so I figured I’m overdue to review it. So since it’s Friday and I post game reviews on Friday I figured better late than never. Let’s see what I think of the game!

He’s smiling because of bacon!

Guildhall by Alderac Entertainment Group is a card game where players try to fill the halls of their guilds (imagine that). To fill a guild you have to have five different colored cards of the same character. There are Farmers, Weavers, Dancers, Historians, Traders, and Assassins. Each character type provides you with some different ability. For example, when you play a dancer you get to draw a number of cards equal to the number of dancers in your guild and you get an extra action. Players have two actions per turn.

This game is played to a certain number of points. Points can be earned in two ways. The Farmer cards allow you to earn points if you have a certain number of Farmers already in your guild. The other option to earn points is by completing a guild hall and turning it in for a card with a point value on it. The winner is the first player to 20 points.

Here’s a look at Guildhall on the table (Image via Trent Hamm via BoardGameGeek.com):

This is Guildhall. A big game in a small package!

 

The Upside:

  • OPTIONS: So there’s only six different types of cards, how many options can there be? Well, each card does something slightly different based on how many of that card you have in the guild. So 6 cards with 3 categories means 18 options every turn. But it’s even better because you can combo things, which is awesome!
  • INTERACTION: This game has a great amount of interaction. You are constantly messing with other players guilds and they are doing the same to you. You are constantly hoping that they won’t mess up the guild that you’ll be able to complete on your next turn. This game definitely has a nice back-stabby layer to it!
  • WEIGHT: This game is just a big deck of cards and a few coin chits. But beneath the surface is a pretty deep and tense strategy game. Players can’t plan too far ahead but it’s important to make good plays with at least your next turn in mind. This game is heavier than one would expect. And that’s a good thing!

The Downside:

  • QUALITY: I’m sort of a stickler for good quality. In this case it’s not the physical quality that bothers me but rather the visual quality. My problem with it is that in the copy I’ve played there are different shades of the background colors. For example, the green Farmer will be a different green than the more limey green Trader. It just bothers me. This does not affect gameplay though.
  • LACK OF CONTROL: Often in the game it feels like you don’t have much control over what’s going to happen to you. If you jump out to an early lead, beware, because they’ll probably all come after you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. That bothers me, but only a little.
  • THE BOX/INSERT: The box for Guildhall is ridiculously large. Like I mentioned above, this game is just a deck of cards and coin chits. The box is just oversized for the amount of components you receive. This does not affect gameplay though.

Designer Perspective – What I Would Change:

The only thing I don’t really like about the game is that once you’ve filled a guildhall you basically just turn it into points. And if you’re wise you’ll likely grab the highest valued point card available. As a designer I’d like to see the ability to use the completed guild halls in a more interesting way. My suggestion would be that the face up cards that represent points would require sets of completed guildhalls (like Farmers and Dancers). This could make it more strategic if all the players are really trying to complete the same guild.

Beer Pairing:

This game feels like a light beer but plays like a heavy beer. There’s one beer in particular that fits the bill for me and that’s Guinness, which drinks like a light beer but feels like a heavy beer. (I guess that’s the opposite… oh well)  So I’m pairing Guildhall with a classic brew, Guinness Draught. This beer is a very enjoyable beverage that is deeper than one might originally guess. Just like Guildhall.

OVERALL RATING:

I didn’t care much for this game when I first played it. That’s due to my lack of understanding of how the cards could really interact with each other. (Maybe I shouldn’t review games after only one play!) But now that I’ve played four times I can really see how well this was designed. Not only is there player to player interaction, but card to card interaction. My favorite combo is to “weaver a dancer” and then play a dancer to get the extra card and action. I’ll rate this game an 8 out of 10 according to the Board Game Geek ratings scale.

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I'll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I’ll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

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