Yesterday, chef David Chang cracked open a cold one at a Thai restaurant in Las Vegas and proceeded to drop its temperature still further by pouring it into a Singha Beer mug piled high with ice. “[Beer] on ice is how I like to pair spicy delicious food. Any naysayers simply don’t drink their beers fast enough. Koozies are for suckers,” he wrote on Instagram.
Less than 24 hours later, social media took the bait and the post had amassed well over 500 comments. James Beard-winning chefs including Tom Colicchio, Jamie Bissonette, and Chris Shepherd all put in their two cents. While the cries of “You just ruined this beer soooo hard!!” were predictable, what’s more surprising is that the majority of the reactions fell more along the lines of “hell, yeah.”
“We call that an aristocrat. Staying hydrated is a key and a pro move while eating things such as Thai food or viet Cajun crawfish. It’s also just delicious, well played my friend,” Shepherd wrote enthusiastically.
This isn’t the first time Chang has trolled die-hard craft beer snobs. In a 2014 op-ed for GQ the chef railed on craft beer snobbery and announced, “I love cheap, watery swill. Singha, Tecate, Miller High Life—they're all the champagnes of beer.” (Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver wrote a stern rebuttal shortly after.) If you can get past the manifesto’s highly clickable headline, Chang walks back the bluster a bit and acknowledges the barrel-aged saisons and imperial stouts are delicious—it’s just that there’s a time and place for every sort of beer.
Even the experts agree that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to serving beer. Dark, complex stouts and porters are best served around 45 to 55 degrees in order to allow all those deep, roasty undertones to come forward. Cicerones tend to pour IPAs chillier, but not to the extent that the cold dulls all those aromatic, herbal hop notes.
When it comes to Thai macrolagers like Singha, Chang, and Leo, the colder the better—and with good reason. Prior to the widespread arrival of air-conditioning, life in Thailand revolved around the street. And while over the last few years, the Thai government has been cracking down on Bangkok’s street vendors, locals can still be found sitting at open-air shophouses and plastic roadside tables pounding low-ABV lagers.
Having lived in Bangkok for a little over half a decade, I can confirm there is no greater pleasure at the end of a sweaty, sticky-hot day than a plate of gai tod (fried chicken) and brutally spicy som tum (papaya salad) with a mug of Singha on ice. Locals in Vietnam, which also has a rich, beer-drinking culture would agree that iced beer is both the perfect antidote to the external temperature and the food itself. As Chang has repeatedly remarked, these uncomplicated, chuggable beers are great for quelling chili heat and much easier to pair than show-stealing triple IPAs.
These days, Bangkok has a booming craft beer culture, thanks to bars like Let the Boy Die and import companies like Beervana. Vietnam has an incredibly vibrant craft brewing scene, with local standouts like Pasteur Street Brewing scoring international beer awards. Visitors to these venues won’t find an ice cube anywhere near the Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout.
Once you leave the bougie to the streets of Southeast Asia—or Vegas, while you’re at it—ice in your beer is indisputably the way to go. Hell, if you want to throw a cube in your sauvignon blanc, as Chang likes to do, that’s your business too. Sometimes beer is meant to be complicated, and sometimes it’s just meant to be cold and delicious.