Take a Sip: Beer on Ice

Written by Mike Sula for chicagoreader.com

Beer on ice is delicious and refreshing.

Stay with me here.

Beer on ice is delicious and refreshing, in certain circumstances, with certain beers.

Trashy? Sacrilegious? Don’t be that way. Surely you’ve enjoyed a Michelada once or twice. Even the French have been known put ice in their bubbly.

In Vietnam, where there’s a plethora of regional lager-style beers and green plastic kegs of locally produced, fresh, unpasteurized bia hoi sit on every Hanoi street corner, you’ll rarely see anyone drinking it without a few chunks of ice.

There are some very practical reasons for bia da, or beer on ice. First, refrigeration is scarce, and often the only way to drink beer cold is to drink it on the rocks. Second, the climate is frequently—particularly now—murderously hot and humid. Diluting your alcohol with a bit of frozen water helps you hydrate, or at least slows dehydration during those long, lazy morning drinking sessions when the bia hoi is at its freshest. Finally, and most importantly, it’s incredibly refreshing. Ice improves the drinkability of marginal-to-crappy beer.

I’ve applied the ice treatment to several crappy—let’s say mass-produced—beers since I’ve returned from a couple weeks in Vietnam. Old Style, Bud, Miller High Life—it won’t transform them into good beers, but it will help them go down easy, and help you quickly forget, on days like today, that you can wring an equivalent volume of sweat from your underwear.

You can take it too far. When I got uppity and started icing better beers, things quickly went off the rails. I ordered a Sophie draft with a glass of ice recently at the Bad Apple, and I could read in my server’s eyes that accommodating me was perhaps one of the most ethically dodgy things she’d ever faced in her career. Lesson: Sophie on ice is awful. And so are the other craft beers I poisoned with it. Stick with the swill, or in the best of worlds, something like this:

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