The Pursuit of a Frothy Head

White Hag Nitro Dry Stout.  In my time, I’ve been described by at least three of those words.  And Nitro isn’t one of them.

The Nitro in the name of The White Hag Brewing Company’s Dry Stout promised a thick, creamy head to my pint, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve never given a great deal of thought to the carbonation process in beer production; would be hard-pressed to tell my nitrogen from my carbon dioxide, unless I was physically forced to inhale a canister of the stuff.

However, there was a moment in history when carbonation was the hottest topic amongst beer-drinkers.  It was the spring of 1989 and the first public appearance of a draught beer––respect where respect is due, Guinness––in a can.  And what had permitted this significant evolutionary leap-forward for mankind?  The invention of some kind of mysterious object called a widget.

Nowadays, widgets are ubiquitous, albeit predominantly online and anonymous.  Back in 1989, a widget was something close approaching a mystical icon, up there alongside the Turin Shroud and the Holy Foreskin.

No one knew what a widget was; no one knew how a widget worked––the R&D Department of Guinness excepted.  Beer drinkers would shake their empty cans reverentially and, if they were lucky, manage to shake their widget free so that it rattled.  But it was still impossible to guess just what form a widget took.  A close scrutiny through the opening in the top of the can with the ring-pull removed, even with the benefit of a powerful torch, threw little light on the mystery of the widget.  And no one dared to actually penetrate the can to see the widget face-to-face; rumours abounded that the widget would explode; had some kind of built-in self-destruct system.


I was caught up in the widget iconisation, although I never wanted to understand its secrets; I was merely happy to appreciate its frothy results in the glass.  And I was not alone.

In a 2003 poll of the public carried out by Wilkinson Sword––okay, I admit it, we’re not talking Ipsos MORI here––fourteen years after the widget was first introduced to an unsuspecting world, it was ranked first in a list of the greatest technological inventions, side-lining the mobile phone, the internet and, probably to the razor industry’s disappointment, the Ladyshave.

© Beery Sue


The stout white hag stomps off in search of her next pint.

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