Trends in the world of craft beer come and go. You may even hold the point of view that craft beer itself is a trend, of course, which is fair enough. But aside from that we have seen the rise and fall of the Black IPA, the sudden proliferation of the pint-usurping schooner, and all manner of portable travel mugs for beer (growlers, crowlers etc). There are two schools of thought about what drives these trends – some are instigated by the brewers to help push their business and grow the sector, and others are driven by public demand and are then adopted by the beermakers to satisfy that need. It’s a chicken and egg thing. But there is one very recent trend that is entirely driven by the eggs (the public). I’m talking about the #IceManPour, bro.
Some things us consumers come up with deserve time and recognition; the move to more concern about where our beer comes from, for instance. And on the flipside you have the #IceManPour. One of the strangest things to happen to the wide-eyed world of craft beer since the resurgence of the Gose, this is the modern fascination of the moment. Beer poured into a glass right to the brim, leaving zero room for foamy head. CAMRA’s ‘take it to the top’ campaign for the extreme craft generation. Where once your lips were greeted by pillowy, lip-tingling froth, now it’s a quick slurp to stop the contents of your beer from hitting your carpet instead of your tastebuds.
As with many trends these days, the #IceManPour (or #BossPour) is a bastard child of social media, having sprung from a few daredevil pourers on Instagram. Users like theiceman13 and benhur345 love nothing more than running out of room in their glassware, pushing the limits of fluid dynamics by leaving a gently convex beer surface clinging to the tops of their tekus. The rest of us look on in bemused wonder thinking that in our day something handed over like that would result in a trip back to the bar for it to be be-frothed once again. Although when the meniscus is wobbling like a week-old jelly it takes some skill to take the glass anywhere without it dribbling down the sides. As I discovered for myself.
Yes in the interest of capturing the zeitgeist/having found myself in a hotel room with nothing to do, I gamely had a go at the #IceManPour. Turns out it is a lot harder than it looks (even if the only thing it looks is like a glass of orange juice – and more on that later). The beer I sacrificed on the altar of progress was Magic Rock’s brand new 7% IPA Clairvoyance – apologies in advance to Rich, Stu and the team in Huddersfield. I don’t believe they explicitly refer to it as a New England IPA, but brewed with oats, wheat and acidulated malt it’s near enough to the style that helped push the #IceManPour along (it is fermented with Californian, not Vermont Ale yeast so isn’t 100% NE kosher).
As there’s no point in having an artistic movement develop without a muse, the top-heavy pour and these specific beers now go hand in hand. Brewers are raising the mouthfeel and stone fruit elements of their IPA’s and cutting back on the bitterness and the sap-like resins, and these New England or Vermont IPA’s have taken off recently. In turn the beers have created their own sub-trend when it comes to dishing them up. I’m not sure which came first (and the IceMen also turn their hand to darker beers) but it seemed only fitting to stick to style when it came to the time to make the magic happen.
One of the keys to doing this is to pick a beer that is opaque (tick) and with very little carbonation (tick) as a continually forming head is the enemy to all #BossPourBros. Forget your pilsners. After pouring and a fair bit of slurping, the head on my Clairvoyance had reduced to a minimal lacing – but this is far, far too much for the #IceManPour so the only thing I could do was wait. Ten minutes passed, the head subsided a little more and I got a whole lot thirstier. Still bubbles. So there was only one thing for it, I was going to have to resort to some dabbing. I’ve done a few beer photoshoots with the day job so am no stranger to mopping the outside of a streaky glass with blueroll, but I’ve never delicately mopped a tiny froth from the top of a glass with looroll. That one is a first.
Anwyay, after a few minutes of this and careful topping up with a teaspoon – no really – I had to decant some IPA from the can into a tea cup and then spoon it onto the surface of the beer to delicately create the meniscus and get the level of the beer right on the rim of the glass – I was good to go. And was it worth it? No, not even slightly. It’s ridiculous. The whole thing took twenty minutes and I was left with something I could only drink by bending over and slurping the glass without moving it. Thankfully, a couple of goes and a quick whirl of the glass brought the head back to life and I could turn my back on the #IceManPour forever. Does it look cool, though? Am I missing out? Well, maybe.
The overall point here is that it’s a bit of fun. It’s not going to take off and become mainstream, anytime soon. But if you like pouring your beer like that and you have the patience (or a better technique than me; there were no online manuals to consult so I had to think on the fly) then good for you. Personally I love the foam on a beer, how it aids the aromas, the sensation it brings to that first sip, the buffer it provides and the way the carbonation lifts all the flavours. I don’t hate the #IceManPour – and there are a few users who really do, like this video from an almost visibly angry nowhalezbro.
But maybe the best way to respond to the #IceManPour guys is just to let them have their fun, and poke back. Like Evil Twin, who trolled them with an #IceManPour of their own, apparently using orange juice…