Ice Cold Beer (ICB) is on Emerald Hill, just off the overcrowded Orchard Road shopping district, and is a decent spot for an afternoon escape or a happy-hour indulgence. On the rare occasions that I have had to brave Orchard on a weekend afternoon, I generally have wound up at ICB for a pint. ICB and its Emerald Hill Group counterparts - cocktail bar No 5 and wine and tapas joint Que Pasa - are just around the corner from the congested Centrepoint shopping center. However, ICB is miles away from Orchard Road in terms of atmosphere. The front deck provides is on a relatively quiet street amid scenic early 20th century shophouses.
As the name indicates, the beer is at temperatures near zero Celsius. The bar was the first local to have ice tanks set into the main bar has glass frosters that chill the glasses to -3Â°C. As you may expect from that, lagers dominate the menu. The bar usually has decent deals on favorites such as San Miguel, Becks or, currently, the rarer "Dark" Becks and the Corona-substitute Sol. It also features a range of Belgian imports, usually about eight, and a handful of more unusual brews (such as the Lawrence Victor Coonawarra Old Ale.
Although the selection at ICB is much better than the standard pub, it pales in comparison to Brauhaus at United Square, just next to the Novena MRT station. I regret that I did not discover this place much earlier. I haven't created a scan of the menu - proprietor Micheal Chuah couldn't spare one - though even if he could it would have taken up far too much disk space as Brauhaus offers roughly 200 beers from all over the globe. The menu is printed on a double-sided A3 sheet of paper, with several new additions added by hand.
For starters, we sampled O'Hara's Celtic Stout and a Belgian Floris Chocolat. We followed this with the Mongolian Baadog craft ale (sadly, made under license in the UK) and Poland's Zyweic Porter. No complaints, the Polish porter was one of the nicest I've tasted, the Baadog was a thin refreshing ale and the chocolate beer was nice in the same way that an A&W Root-Beer float is nice - it was cloyingly sweet and you don-t want to drink two of them in one sitting, but it was still pleasant in an insidious way. Bad reviews elsewhere can be attributed to the fact that it tastes nothing like a beer.
Brauhaus is run by a true beer aficionado. Michael Chuah has owned the place for 16 years and knows, loves and can discuss beer for hours. He is shown posing with one of his prized possessions, a well-preserved 1994 Vintage Hardy's Ale (estimated value S$3,000). Kept properly, that one should be at its optimum age in 26 years after bottling. He joined us for a few drinks and offered samples of some of the pub's more eccentric fare. These included the wood-smoke infused German Schlenkerla Rauchbier (smoked beer) and Delerium Tremens, a high-octane 9% abv white Belgian.smoked sausage or pork. The Delerium Tremens tasted surprisingly light for a strong beer (9% abv) and it had a crisp champagne mouthfeel. Still, the pink elephants do decorate the bottle for a reason. Although Michael did offer us a couple of further samples, I was no longer in any condition to take notes.
To the right is a picture of a selection from Brauhaus. The photo is a little fuzzy - on the night I had thought it was my vision. The downside of the Brauhaus is its location, which is essentially an outdoor, albeit covered, shopping-mall foodcourt. In a way, that is a good thing as the bar is off the map for most tourists, expats and likely locals. We dropped by on a Friday evening and business was steady, though not quite booming. After the mall closed, the atmosphere was comfortable and quiet. Also, unlike most of the bars I've noted so far, the clientele was predominantly local - which is a welcome change from the expat-favored bars. Sadly, the brews are all bottled; the only draught is local staple Tiger. Michael said this is largely because of the costs of importing kegs and the need to move product quickly when this is done. With many regulars seeking new beers on each trip, it is better to focus on quantity than freshness.
I regret that I had only discovered Brauhaus about a month before I left Singapore for China as it has the best selection of beers that I've seen in Asia or North America. I would give it the designation of best Singapore beer bar without any hesitation - though an afternoon lager at ICB is still a welcome diversion.
Next time - Paulaner Brauhaus vs Brewerkz.