It was a hot, summer night in 2017 and I was drinking a few cold ones at Howlers. Suddenly, the sweat-drenched drummer for the headlining metal band bellied up to the bar, threw down a fifty and ordered all of the I.C. Light Mangos in the cooler.

I laughed nervously along with the other PBR drinkers. With a dead-eye stare, the thirsty percussionist chugged a bottle. Suds dripped down his long beard and filled the air with the scent of tropical fruit.

“I put the ‘man’ in Mango!” the beast snarled before flexing, gathering the rest of his beer and disappearing into the darkness.

Stranger things have happened.

Screenshot of an Iron City Beer can in an episode of “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Photo by Kristy Locklin.

After experimenting with lime- and cherry-flavored I.C. Light Twist in the mid-’90s, Pittsburgh Brewing Company debuted the mango elixir in 2011.

At 95 calories, four carbs and 3.8% ABV, it soon became Yinzer Nation’s go-to summertime beer, n’at.

Tailgate parties, picnics, zombie walks, lazy nights on the North Shore … all of these events became mini-vacations thanks to the island-inspired brew. (But, watch out for that “Mangover” the next day. It’s a killer!)

After celebrating Friday the 13th with I.C. Light Mango, I woke up with a bad “Mangover.” Photo by Kristy Locklin.

I.C. Light Mango is now a year-round offering; the brewery produces 70,000 cases of the 12-ounce cans annually. Sales are up 25 percent in 2022 and it will soon be available in every Giant Eagle in Pennsylvania.

Todd Zwicker, president of the beer company, says they’ll whip up another batch this fall at the new facility in Creighton to help I.C. Light imbibers get through those long, winter months.

If you use your imagination, the orange cans resemble glowing jack-o’-lanterns, which appeals to this Halloween freak. There was a boozier version of the beer released a few years ago, but the 8% ABV I.C. Light Mango Pumped was a little too scary for the average parking lot reveler. (I had two before a Slayer concert at Star Lake.) The company decided to stick to the original recipe, which is made with natural flavors and artificial sweeteners.

“(Headbrewer) Mike Carota has a great palate,” says Zwicker. “He’s been with us for 46 years and he’s very good at blending and assessing different flavors to make a beer sessionable. It’s a solid brand. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like it.”

Some craft beer devotees turn up their noses when offered an I.C. Light Mango. Ben Butler, co-owner of Necromancer Brewing Co. and founder of Top Hat, the marketing agency that rebranded Pittsburgh Brewing Co., says those same people probably stockpile the stuff.

“There’s a subcurrent of I.C. Light Mango in the local brewing community,” he says. “People pretend not to like it, but I’ve walked in on brewers drinking it post-shift.”

Recently, Zwicker invited the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild for a tour of the company’s 170,000-square-foot Creighton site, where members snapped selfies in front of towering stacks of I.C. Light Mango cans.

Katie Rado, general manager of Trace Brewing, was on hand to enjoy Mangos with her colleagues.

“It’s such a deliciously refreshing beer,” she says. “It goes with everything and is low enough ABV that you can drink a few with no worries. When I first moved here in 2009, we lived right across the street from the Iron City Brewery on Liberty Avenue. We smelled them brew exactly one batch of beer before moving to Latrobe so it’s so amazing to have them back in the Burgh!”

For last year’s Barrel & Flow Fest, 412 Brewery made two collaboration beers with 2Hands20Fingers: Thicc Hands, a chocolate coconut truffle stout, and Thinn Fingers, a mango-centric light lager. Co-owner Adam Bey says you might find the latter back on tap this summer.

Lawrenceville’s new Coven Brewing serves a summer boilermaker that is an I.C. Light Mango and a shot of Maggie’s Farm Falernum.

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Brewing Company.

Like Turner’s Premium Iced Team, Mango has a cult following and doubles as a cocktail mixer. I combined the two iconic beverages in a plastic I.C. Light Mango cup. I call it an I.C.ed Toddy after Mr. Zwicker, who gave me the souvenir to liven up my one-woman luau.

I don’t typically sip fruity libations in the sunshine; I’m a perpetually black-clad monster nerd who prefers downing porters in dark, smoky bars. But I enjoyed this tasty concoction while perusing back issues of Fangoria magazine on my balcony.

Fangos & Mangos in the Zombie Capital of the World? Talk about an I.C. Fright!

Homebrew Con coming to the convention center

If you’re more interested in brewing beer instead of coffee, check out the 44th annual Homebrew Con and the National Homebrew Competition. The event will take place June 23-25 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Homebrewers, fermentation hobbyists and novices from around the world will join the American Homebrewers Association for the three-day conference. Attendees will hear from experts and attend educational sessions, meet-ups and other activities in a city known for its booming beer scene.

The conference concludes with the National Homebrew Competition awards ceremony and the results of the Homebrew Club of the Year and Homebrew Shop of the Year.

The NEXT Beer is a column highlighting different brews, breweries and events in and around Pittsburgh. If you’ve got a beer-related news tip, send me an email. Cheers!