The concept of beer in ice cream often elicits an “eeeeuu” from non-foodie devotees of the cold creamy dessert. But as foodies know, without new thinking, we never discover anything new.
In fact, adding beer to an ice cream recipe is no different from adding Grand Marnier. Readers who have enjoyed the pleasures of fruit lambics, pumpkin ales, and chocolate beers, stouts, and porters will already be nodding their heads in assent. Beer pubs have gotten the message, too. Today, instead of the ubiquitous cheesecake dessert, you can choose raspberry lambic sorbet served in a stemmed Belgian glass; or the triple decker treat of a fudgy brownie and vanilla ice cream with porter poured on top. Sound strange? A jigger of Scotch poured over vanilla ice cream has long been a gourmet treat.
“Brew” Your Own
Sweet cream, whipped and frozen smooth, is a perfect foil for malty, slightly bitter flavors of beer. Blended with chocolate, or tropical fruits, beer can be a good stand-in for other liquids in the typical recipe for ice cream. We’ve included some recipes below so you won’t have to wait much longer to sample the pleasures yourself.
- Most ice creams start with a cream or dairy base: skimmed evaporated milk, custard, whole milk, yogurt or half and half.
- Add a sweetener, such as white or brown sugar, or even a reduced wort or malt extract syrup.
- Blend with a binder of some sort—eggs, gelatin, cornstarch or rice flour—especially if the recipe will incorporate fresh ripe berries or cut fruit. Cook the blend (a necessary step if raw eggs are used).
- Add other flavors (vanilla, chocolate, beer), stir well and chill. For best results, the cream base should be well chilled before freezing.
Chefs at fine restaurants, who have long served wine-based sorbets and granitas, are now seeking the best ways to add beer to their frozen dessert repertoires. “It’s a little tricky to make a smooth, creamy malt ice cream from reduced wort,” said Darren Chadderdon, a former chef at Gordon Biersch’s Palo Alto brewpub, in a phone interview. “If there is too much sugar in the wort, it will interfere with the fine ice crystal formation that you want in a frozen dessert.” Chadderdon experimented with pure malt ice creams, as well as a Maibock Wine Sorbet. “The wine added another layer of flavor to the sorbet, which made it even better.”
Other chefs have experimented with freezing fruit lambics for refreshing ices, or intermezzo sorbets served between courses. In Jamaica, I once sampled a delicious granita made by freezing Dragon Stout with sweetened lime juice syrup. At Chicago’s Goose Island, the chef devised a trio of Timmermans sorbets: kriek, peche and framboise. A colleague has tasted Lindemans lambics made into sorbets at beer tasting dinners held across the country.
Brewpubs aside, other restaurateurs develop frozen desserts with beer. At a Craft Brewers Conference in Cleveland, the Metropolitan Cafe restaurant created a special malted vanilla ice cream made with swirls of golden malt extract.
Still other brewers prefer to drink, not eat, their beer. Brendan Moylan of California, says, “I’d rather have a beer with dessert, than a dessert made with beer. For instance, a raspberry-infused beer goes great with a chocolate and raspberry dessert.”
We encourage you to do both. Three recipes follow: Raspberry Lambic Ice Cream, Speedy Stout Mocha Freeze and Apricot Ale Frozen Custard.
Remember to follow the manufacturer’s directions for your ice cream machine (crushed ice really makes a difference if you are using an old salt-and-ice bucket maker). Prepare the recipe 12 to 24 hours ahead of serving time, to let the ice cream ripen in the freezer. And consider serving a glass of the same beer in the recipe, along with the ice cream.