St. Patrick’s Day Is a Good Day for the Gas Industry

Across the world, massive amounts of CO2 and nitrogen will be consumed as thirsty citizens celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. More than 4.2 billion pints of beer will be consumed on this single day—that’s about 1 percent of the annual consumption total. Just how much gas will be consumed? Different beers have different amounts of CO2. Brewers speak in terms of volumes of CO2, where 1 volume of CO2 is the equivalent of 1 gallon of CO2 at 1 atmosphere in 1 gallon of fluid. The typical beer has anywhere from 1½ volumes CO2 for a typical British-style ale to up to 5 volumes for a wheat beer. So if we take 4.2 billion pints of beer on St. Patrick’s Day…that’s about 528 million gallons of beer—considering an average of 2.5 volumes of CO2…that’s more than 1.3 billion volumes of CO2—in other words, a lot of gas.

Of course, not all of the gas consumed is carbon dioxide. Nitrogen makes up a large part of the gas mix used in beers like Guinness. How many pints of Guinness will be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day?

13 million pints, enough to fill 60% of the Empire State Building. That’s a lot of nitrogen. Guinness has a connection to the Gases and Welding Distributors Association., GAWDA member McDantim was responsible for developing a custom gas blender for Guinness & Co. back in 1986.

While it’s well known that many beers use carbon dioxide, Guinness is somewhat unique in its use of nitrogen gas. If you’ve ever had Guinness in a can, you may have wondered what that little plastic ball was in the can. It’s a widget specially designed to release nitrogen when the can is opened in order to help re-create that signature foamy head (Guinness is actually the original inventor of widget).

Guinness uses a combination of CO2 and nitrogen because nitrogen is dissolved into the beer to give it a unique consistency and to give the foam its whipped-cream quality. That’s the secret.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association