How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Iceman Pour

Words & Photo - Matthew Curtis

Recently, I’ve been pretty vocal about a trend in beer that I’m not altogether fond of. The Iceman pour, sometimes referred to as a boss pour, has become popular via social media platforms such as Instagram over the last twelve months or so. The rise in popularity of hazy and downright turbid pale ales and IPAs is in part responsible for this but the trend is not limited to these styles alone.

The pour involves pouring a beer slowly, filling the glass to the brim without generating any foam so that it forms a convex meniscus around the rim of the glass once complete. When done with an opaque pale ale such as those from Trillium or The Veil in the US and Deya or Cloudwater here in the UK, the end result is a glass that looks far closer to tropical fruit juice than beer. Incidentally that’s what most of these beers actually taste like. The technique is also often employed with obsidian black, barrel aged imperial stouts. 

I love foam. When I was working occasionally behind the bar at The Duke’s Head last year I delighted each and every time I nailed a perfect head on a pint of beer. Each beer was different in terms of viscosity and carbonation so the skill had to be relearned every time a barrel was changed. A beer’s head is the vehicle for the aroma, the best part of so many beers be they lagers, stouts or pale ales. It also forms a barrier against oxidation and the true skill in pouring a beer is forming the perfect head in the glass first, before layering the remainder of the beer beneath it. 

So naturally once I discovered the Iceman pour my reaction to it was incredibly negative – vociferously so. “Fuck the Iceman pour,” was my mantra and naturally it led to a couple of what were in retrospect relatively light hearted run ins with those that loved this particular pouring technique. 

Then I went on holiday and of course with downtime comes plenty of thinking time (but not quite enough to cause myself undue harm.) I eventually came to the realisation that I was wrong to call out the Iceman pour and this is why. Beer culture, like any other culture, is in a state of constant flux – but with the rise in craft beers popularity still in overdrive ours is a culture that’s currently changing more than most.

"Beer is a personal thing – a luxury – something that if you invest time and money in you should be able to enjoy however you damn well want to."

Beer is a personal thing – a luxury – something that if you invest time and money in you should be able to enjoy however you damn well want to. By calling out the Iceman pour I was telling people that they were enjoying beer incorrectly, which I was wrong to do. I might not agree that pouring a beer, especially a hoppy, aromatic beer, without a head is a good thing. 75% of a beers flavour is presented through its aroma after all. Still, if people get the biggest kick out of enjoying beer this way and ultimately it brings more people into the fold, which in turn helps the beer business thrive, then we should accept it for what it is. 

There are parallels in how people have reacted to guitar music as it has become increasingly more diverse over the decades. Djent is a style of music in which the guitar(s) are tuned to a very low scale and use intensely large, almost dissonant amounts of distortion. The word Djent actually comes from the sound the guitar is making when used this way (here’s a great example from Djent pioneers, Periphery, for the curious.)  

Now if you played a classically trained blues guitarist a Djent influenced track they might probably call it an affront to guitar music. However, for the Djent fan that sound and intensity is everything. They’re both forms of guitar music, just enjoyed in a totally different way – much like fans of the Iceman pour are choosing to enjoy beer in a totally different way to what is perceived to be the correct way. 

Bringing it back to alcohol, the way you take your whisky – or the way you are “supposed” to take your whisky, is another great example of why we are wrong to call out the Iceman pour. We’re taught to enjoy Scotch whisky neat or with water on the side to taste – and that adding ice to certain whiskies is sacrilege. In truth you can enjoy your whisky however you damn well want to, there are no rules, just a set of guidelines. I’m not calling the Iceman pour innovative, but no true innovation occurred when folks simply followed the rules. 

Beer is much the same and no one should call people out just because some folks have made a conscious decision to enjoy beer in their own way. This is not religion or politics (although it may be for some of us) it’s beer – and we should bear that in mind before the next time we react to something as simple as a photograph of a beer in a glass that we don’t quite agree with.