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How to Make Delicious Beer Ice Cream at Home

July 17, 2020

By Max Falkowitz, July 17, 2020

In the sweltering heat of Sicilian summer, a fat scoop of ice cream slapped into a brioche roll is considered a normal and socially acceptable breakfast. In the summer of my New York City coop, during a global pandemic when the free press is dying on the vine and racist goons proudly fly the flags of their fascist revanchism in the streets, a cold beer has been my breakfast of choice instead.

However. Let us consider a more temperate morning meal, something that can chase away the catatonia of despair while leaving us more in control of our faculties. I believe the solution in these times is beer-flavored ice cream, a very good thing, and if you know how to make boxed brownie mix, well within your grasp. So let’s make some.

When done with cleverness and tact, adding beer to ice cream yields a frozen dessert of surprising and delightful complexity. A nod toward the funk of fermentation, the grainy sweetness of malt, the herbal bitterness of hops; all of these elements can do wonders for a basic vanilla or butter pecan. By the same token, turning your favorite beer into ice cream will likely give you new insights on its taste and character. Beer floats and beer popsicles are awesome fun; beer ice cream will bring a beloved brew to new heights.

All photos by Max Falkowitz.

First, some basic principles (and opinionated ground rules) to keep in mind.

  • Yes, you will need an ice cream maker. Don’t ask me about hacking your way to ice cream without one. Nobody asks if you can make cake without a cake pan. Cuisinart makes a great entry-level model for as little as $50 that will last you decades.

  • Strong, assertive beers are best for standing up to the cold, sugar, and fat of frozen desserts. Think smoked porters, milk stouts, and brown ales; Guinness is a classic ice creamer’s beer for a reason. You can also do good things with Belgians and some IPAs, but pale ales and pilsners will just taste washed out.

  • On the flipside, if you’re set on a lighter beer, think sorbet instead of ice cream. More on that below.

  • Beer is mostly water, which is the enemy of creamy ice cream. When commercial makers do beer flavors, they often special-order concentrated syrups from brewers. You can cheat this at home with some dark beers like Trappist ales, which take well to slow reduction on the stove, but most beers taste nasty if you cook them. Instead, pair the beers with ingredients that yield thick ice cream bases, such as cocoa powder, caramel, peanut butter, or matcha. I recommend custard bases (those made with egg yolks) over eggless “Philadelphia” styles for the same reason.

  • A little ice cream stabilizer is helpful antifreeze insurance for beer ice cream. My go-to that’s widely available is a touch of light (not to be confused with reduced-calorie “lite”) corn syrup, which also brings some plushness to the ice cream’s texture.

  • Even the beeriest beer ice cream won’t smack you in the face with malt and hops. Consider your beer an accent flavoring, like an herb or spice, rather than the main event.

Beer Ice Cream

Your basic ice cream custard recipe consists of 2 cups of heavy cream (36% fat for you non-US readers), 1 cup of whole milk (3.25% fat), 6 egg yolks, and ½ to ¾ cup of sugar. If you’re concocting your own beer ice cream creation, you can begin by treating that milk as if it was water, which for our purposes is basically the same thing as beer. (The alcohol in beer is more or less negligible where ice cream is concerned.) If you want to get really nerdy, you can play around with some other options using this butterfat calculator, but the recipe below will act as a general template for you.

The cocoa powder in this recipe isn’t just for flavor. It acts like flour in a gravy, sucking up some of the water in your base, leaving less free-floating water to freeze into crunchy ice crystals. The caramel, peanut butter, and matcha I mentioned earlier work similarly. That said, I also like chocolate ice cream, and cocoa powder makes for a great milk chocolate base—especially when accented with the twangy citrus and coriander notes of a Belgian witbier. Just for fun, I added a Ben & Jerry’s worth of mix-ins—ahem, INCLUSIONS, to use the industry term for stuff added to ice cream during churning rather than afterward, now you know—such as salted peanuts, roasted almonds, chopped-up toffee, and a fudge ribbon for good measure. Gussy yours up however you like; chocolate- or yogurt-covered pretzels or potato chips would be fantastic. Just avoid naked carbs that haven’t been coated in something like chocolate or sugar, because they’ll turn soggy. For best results, take the persnickety step of shaking your chopped INCLUSIONS in a fine-mesh strainer to get rid of tiny particles that would just make your ice cream gritty.

Belgian Milk Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream, With Stuff

Makes about 5 cups

FOR THE BASE

  • 6 egg yolks

  • ¾ cup sugar

  • ¼ cup cocoa powder

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

  • 1 cup Belgian witbier, poured and chilled so it can go flat (I got mine from Queens brewpub Alewife)

  • Salt, to taste

  • 2 ounces salted peanuts, chopped fine and chilled in freezer

  • 2 ounces roasted almonds, chopped fine and chilled in freezer

  • 2 ounces toffee candy, chopped fine and chilled in freezer

FOR THE FUDGE RIBBON

  • ½ cup sugar

  • ⅓ cup light corn syrup

  • ½ cup water

  • ½ cup cocoa powder

  • Pinch of salt

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa powder together until they form a thick paste and no lumps remain. Slowly whisk in heavy cream and corn syrup and set the pot over medium low heat. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot with a silicone spatula, until a custard forms on the back of a spoon and a finger swiped across it leaves a clean line. If you have an instant-read thermometer, your target temperature is 170°F.

2. Remove the base from the stove and strain into a container to chill overnight, or at least 8 hours.

3. While the base is chilling, make the fudge ribbon. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, water, cocoa powder, and salt and whisk thoroughly to combine. Place over high heat and cook, whisking frequently, until bubbles stack on top of each other, about 1 minute. Transfer to a container to chill overnight; this will yield about 1 cup, which will leave you a little extra for chasing The Darkness away in the middle of the night.

4. The next day, add the beer to the custard base and whisk well to combine. Now that the base is chilled, season with salt, starting with ¼ teaspoon and increasing to taste as desired. Transfer base to your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream is ready when it looks fluffy and “dry,” not at all runny, and a spoon smooshed into it leaves a clean depression. During the last minute of churning, slowly add the peanuts, almonds, and toffee.

5. Place a dollop of the fudge ribbon in the bottom of the container destined to hold your ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to the container in 3 or 4 installments, alternating with dollops of the fudge ribbon. Now this is the hard part: Place the container in the back of the freezer and leave it there for at least 6 hours so it can properly harden. Don’t open the freezer door to check on it. Go read a book or something. This is important for the integrity of your ice cream and to keep the ribbon from running and making a mess. Once it’s fully hardened, scoop and serve to a grateful world.

Beer Sorbet

If you’re set on using a lighter beer, or want to highlight a pairing of beer and fruit, or are one of those weirdos who prefers sorbet to ice cream (you are VALID, sorbet lovers!), beer sorbet is even easier to make than beer ice cream. We face the same issue of beer being mostly water and water being mostly bad for frozen desserts, but instead of adding ingredients to soak up that moisture, I prefer to rely on the natural properties of berries and stone fruit. These fruits are loaded with pectin, and when pureed, they form a thick gel that makes for an especially smooth sorbet, even with added water from beer.

To perk up the tartness of my berries, I partnered them with a salty and bracingly acidic gose. Sours, lambics, and saisons are also perfect for this sort of thing. This blackberry and raspberry sorbet could just as easily be blueberry and strawberry or apricot and peach. Use the freshest, ripest, drippiest fruit you can find, which is an annoying recipe cliche but in this case absolutely true. If you’re making sorbet outside of fruit season, high-quality frozen fruit is great for this recipe too.

Black-Raspberry Gose Sorbet

Makes 1 quart

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounces raspberries, washed well

  • 12 ounces blackberries, washed well

  • 1 cup gose, poured and chilled so it can go flat (I got mine from Queens brewpub Alewife)

  • ¾ cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

  • Salt, to taste

1. In a blender, combine raspberries, blackberries, beer, sugar, and corn syrup. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth, about 2 minutes. You may need to pause and tamp down the mixture with a wooden spoon a couple times to get a full puree.

2. Strain into a container to chill overnight, or until the base falls below 45°F.

3. Now that the base is chilled, season with salt, starting with ¼ teaspoon and increasing to taste as desired.

4. Transfer base to your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The sorbet is ready when it looks fluffy and “dry,” not at all runny, and a spoon smooshed into it leaves a clean depression. Transfer to a container and chill it in the back of the freezer for at least 6 hours so it can properly harden. This is less crucial than with the ice cream, but important for reaping the rewards of your hard work. Once it’s fully hardened, scoop and garnish with a cute little mint leaf, to bring some joy and color into your world.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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