We review the differences between bubble formation in champagne and other carbonated drinks, and stout beers which contain a mixture of dissolved nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The presence of dissolved nitrogen in stout beers gives them several properties of interest to connoisseurs and physicists. These remarkable properties come at a price: stout beers do not foam spontaneously and special technology, such as the widgets used in cans, is needed to promote foaming. Nevertheless, the same mechanism, nucleation by gas pockets trapped in cellulose fibers, responsible for foaming in carbonated drinks is active in stout beers, but at an impractically slow rate. This gentle rate of bubble nucleation makes stout beers an excellent model system for investigating the nucleation of gas bubbles. The equipment needed is modest, putting such experiments within reach of undergraduate laboratories. We also consider the suggestion that a widget could be constructed by coating the inside of a beer can with cellulose fibers.

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