Friday, September 14, 2012

In Defense of Beer as Not Beer

Yesterday Alan posed the question What is the Worst Thing That Has Been Done to Beer. Among a few examples by Stan and Boak & Bailey, Alan found a blurb about the burger chain Red Robin, offering a Sam Adams Octoberfest milkshake, to which the consensus was, as Alan put, it gaky.

As much as I like to say the word gak, I'm not sure I can agree with the majority.

I'm not advocating for anybody to pull a Rocky, and mix-up a skim milk and beer power drink, but I've always contended that beer and ice cream are a natural fit. The combination isn't totally unrelated, "Malted" milkshake have been available at "Malt Shops" for just about ever, and look at the flavor profiles of beer—citrus, coffee, chocolate, caramel, graham cracker. Those sound a lot like flavors you might find in the frozen section at your local grocery store, too. In fact, Frozen Pints a craft beer ice cream maker, does offer some of those flavors at grocery, liquor an beer stores in and around the Atlanta, Georgia. They've got ice cream than ranges from Peach Lambic to malted milk Chocolate Stout. As cool as Frozen Pints is, I'm in New York and they're in Georgia, and besides, ice cream is pretty simple to make, so I present to you dear reader—IPA ice cream.

Ice cream only calls for four—maybe five—ingredients (if you want to really do it up). The only piece of equipment you need is an ice cream maker and they're cheap—about $30 or $40. The recipe can be used for any style of beer ice cream, but since this bad boy is IPA ice cream, it makes sense to use an IPA. I like the ones that lean citrusy—like Lakefront or in this case Southern Tier IPA. I'd cut back the sugar to a half cup if you choose to go with a less-bitter beer, like a Mild or Brown ale, but for an IPA stick with 3/4 cup. So, here are the big four, I'll save the fifth for last:

4 egg yolks
3/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of IPA
1 cup of heavy cream

Start by separating the egg yolks from the whites and adding them and the sugar into a bowl that can take heat. I use a big metal mixing bowl. Using a wisk or a fork mix up the yolks and the sugar. Pretty simple so far, right?

Next add the cream and beer to a pan and simmer over low heat until the mixture starts to thicken—maybe five or six minutes. While the beer and cream (bream?) is doing its thing, get a another pot, one that is wide enough for the bowl with the yolks and sugar to sit in it, but not so big that the bowl touches the bottom of the pot. In that pot start heating two or three cups of water over medium heat. You're basically making a double boiler—you don't want the high heat of the burner wrecking you ice cream base, so we'll use the heated water in the lower pot to gently heat the base.

Speaking of base, lets get that together. Once the beer and cream (creer?) has simmered for a bit, it's time to get it together with the yolks and sugar. Take the liquid off the heat and add a little to the yolks and sugar in the bowl. Do this a little at a time at first—like a 1/4 cup—or you'll end up with wet, scrambled eggs. No good for ice cream or scrambled eggs. Make sure to mix while you're adding the liquid in, too. As the yolk mixture comes up to temperature, you can add more and more until it's all incorporated.

Take the whole metal bowl, with everything in it, and put the bowl over the heated water in the pot. Now stir, dammit—and keep stirring! The heat from the water will begin to thicken the ice cream base and when it's thick enough to coat the back a spoon, you're golden.

Take the base off the heat and let it cool, before topping it off with plastic wrap, and letting it chill in the fridge for 5 hours—or better yet overnight. Make sure you let the wrap touch the top of the base, if you don't you'll get pudding skin. Yeah, yeah, I know some folks dig that, but just like the wet, scrambled eggs, it's no good for ice cream.

Okay, fast forward to morning.

Basically what you got now is a thin, beer-flavored custard, but we want ice cream, so let technology take over. Add the base to your ice cream maker, and just follow the manufacturer's directions. We've now gone from custard to soft-serve,  which in and of itself is awesome, but in order to get into bon-a-fide ice cream territory, we need a few hours in the deep-freeze. Three or four hours later, tah-dah, IPA ice cream.

You're probably still wondering what that fifth ingredient is. During the simmering of the beer and cream and then the thickening of everything in the double boiler, the beer looses a little bit of its IPA-ness. A little hoppy ingenuity helps out here. I've started to crumble up a hop pellet right into the ice cream base—the grapefruit-iness of Ahtanum or Amarillo work well here. They add a little bit of hoppy aroma back to the ice cream and give that IPA kick. Go easy with this, the pellets can be strong, so taste as you go. Think of it as cold-hopping! The recipe makes about a pint and a half, but it doubles easily enough. I do recommend churning in batches. All the base can overload the machine, which results in overflow of ice cream. It's tasty but really messy.

I realize that this might not be everybody's cup of tea (or in this case scoop of ice cream) but why can't beer be more than beer? Be it in ice cream, or in a cocktail (although this one wasn't my fav), as a savory sauce or a dessert topping (it's a floor wax!) Beer, not just tasting like beer, doesn't diminish its beeriness, in fact I think using beer unorthodoxically, enhances beer—all beer. As a personal philosophy, I think Andrew Zimmern, puts it best when talking about trying new food or drink—if it looks good, eat it. IPA ice cream looks good, so eat it!

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