Spirits: What’s Mandarin for Yuengling?

Our spicy Asian coverage continues with a cool swig of the best beers of the East.

Asian cuisine is a refreshing change of pace, delivering exotic flavors that conjure distant lands. Asian beers, on the other hand, are brisk lagers with crisp grain flavor and a whisper of herbal hops, as familiar as old friends.

Tsingtao from China is the leader of the Asian pack. This soft, pale lager has a hint of sweetness that flatters the sweet thread shared by Chinese and American cuisines. Taste this affordable, reliably food-friendly beer with crabcakes at Yangming in Bryn Mawr.

Vietnam’s most visible beer is 33 Export, whose crisp, clean flavor is modeled on German Dortmunder. It’s a marvelous partner for tropical foods; try one with the incomparable spring rolls at Vietnam Restaurant at 11th and Vine. Fans of Thai food rave about Singha, Thailand’s most recognizable lager. Rich in texture and malty in taste, Singha has the muscle to stand up to the spicy, nutty flavors of pad Thai at Siam Lotus on Spring Garden Street.

Japanese rice-based lagers are reliably refreshing, with understated grace. Asahi and Kirin perform well with everything from wasabi to ceviche, but the icon, Sapporo, stands a cut above. The “Original Draft” ranks among the finest mainstream lagers in the world, and is available at Pod in University City. However, serious hop-heads should seek out Sapporo’s “Black” lager, as delightfully flavorful as a cherry Coke, without the usual burnt bitterness of dark beer, occasionally found in singles at the Foodery at 10th and Pine.

Japan is also host to a thriving microbrew community. Irreverent brews from Hitachino, like a Creamsicle-iscious “White Ale” modeled on Belgian wheat beer, and stunning original masterpieces, like the full-bodied “Red Rice,” full of wild rice and strawberry aromas, are worth a splurge at Raw on Sansom Street.