Beer On Ice Is Fine (Sometimes). Stop Freaking Out About It

If you've ever traveled to certain parts of Southeast Asia, you might have been served beer with a glass of ice. While some would gape in horror at the thought, many people worldwide enjoy beer served like this. Especially in areas with hot climates and a lack of refrigeration, beer on ice is not just a preference, but a necessity. It's a divisive practice and a really good way to upset beer snobs, but it might be worth trying next time you want a (literally) ice-cold beer. 

The first time I tried it I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant outside of Zion National Park. It was an extremely hot day and I'd been hiking for hours. A pal suggested I try my beer over ice. Maybe I was too tired to question them, but I asked for a glass of ice with my Pacifico and want to know a secret? It was actually really good. 

If you're not an expert in human anatomy, then you might not know that the taste receptors in your taste buds are actually temperature sensitive. Simply put, this means that when something is ice cold, it tastes more mild than when it comes up to room temperature. Ice-cold sweet drinks taste less sweet, and ice-cold bitter drinks will taste more mild. Ask a beer expert the ideal temperature for the beverage and they'll tell you it should be served chilled but not ice cold, so why would you put it over ice? It may dilute the flavor slightly, but it's so incredibly refreshing on a really hot day.

The best beers to serve over ice

If you want to try ice in your beer, go for lighter beers with less concentrated flavor and lower alcohol content. This strategy also works well if you suddenly find yourself with a lot of cheap beer laying around and don't know what to do with it. 

I've thrown many a BBQ or family gathering where I'm left with a bunch of beer, some of which I wouldn't ordinarily buy for myself. Those less flavorful or less robust beers sitting in my fridge or pantry are annoyingly taking up space, but pouring them over ice takes them from a nuisance to a refreshing beverage. Making them ice cold means the flavors will become milder and more palatable. Think light beers like your standard commercial American brews, (Budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors, etc).

Other beers that work well over ice are lighter Asian beers like Asahi or Sapporo. Singha from Thailand is often served over ice when you travel to the region anyway, so try it over ice for a more traditional experience. Even Mexican beers like Corona, Modelo, or Pacifico will taste good over ice as their flavors are also lighter and more streamlined.

The aforementioned beers are also cheaper than craft beer, so if you hate it, you can toss it, or finish one and never do it again. 

Beer cocktails are a frosty treat

Another way to enjoy ice in beer is by making beer-centric cocktails like Micheladas or lageritas. The Michelada is a popular Mexican beer cocktail that's very similar to a Bloody Mary or Caesar, but it uses just beer instead of liquor. While some people make Micheladas with tomato juice, hot sauce, spices, and lime, others skip the tomato juice altogether. The carbonation from the beer makes a Michelada a much better hangover cure than a Bloody Mary, in my opinion, and it's much lighter if you're coming off a night of drinking and have a weak stomach. If I'm eating at a Mexican restaurant for brunch or lunch and I'm in the mood for a beer, a Michelada is my go-to drink order.

A lagerita is ostensibly a margarita made with beer, although some people will also add tequila to it. Adding beer to a margarita is a great way to add carbonation without reducing flavor, as you would with club soda. It lightens a traditional margarita but keeps it tasting interesting, not watered down. In the case of a lagerita, lighter Mexican beers like Corona, Modelo, or Pacifico are perfect as they are lower in malt and hops and won't overwhelm the flavor of the cocktail.

Making cocktails with beer might be the least risky way to drink beer over ice because the flavors are so complex that you won't notice if the beer flavor is diluted. You will notice, however, if the cocktail is lukewarm, so load that glass up with ice.

Times when you might want to leave ice in the cooler

While we're all for trying new things, even beer over ice, there are certain instances when you should leave the ice in the freezer. When you're enjoying craft beer with specific flavors and mouthfeels, it's best to leave it alone. Some craft beers will feel smoother and richer on the tongue than others, while others have notes of fruit, citrus, hops, or coffee that are meant to hit your palate in specific ways. 

Not only will ice dilute the beer and alter the flavor, but it also affects the carbonation of your beer. You'll lose some of that mouthfeel and the head on the beer when you lose the carbonation, which will be exacerbated as the ice begins to melt.

In other instances, it's just not culturally recommended to drink your beer ice cold. The first time I traveled to the UK, it was made very clear to me that Guinness was meant to be served chilled but not ice cold. This has to do with the amount of carbonation true ales should have. So word to the wise, if you find yourself sitting in a pub in Ireland, don't ask for a glass of ice unless you're trying to get thrown out of the pub. Otherwise, feel free to experiment, just do so responsibly.