You're Not Dreaming: Beer Ice Cream Exists!
You can have your beer, and eat it too, with these hoppy ice creams
When New York became the latest state to legalize beer mixed into ice cream this summer, I knew I had to try some.
After several weeks of research I can report beer ice cream is being made across the country—mostly on an ad hoc basis—and it’s delicious.
Burley Oak Brewing in Berlin, Md. is one of several breweries that came onto beer ice cream mostly by accident. Owner Bryan Brushmiller said the brewery was given a soft serve ice cream machine and was looking about what unusual ingredients they could put into it. They decided to make a line of sour beers made with organic fruits and milk sugar called JREAM. “The milk sugar gives it a creaminess and a little bit of a sourness to basically balance out the sweetness," Brushmiller said.
The acronym J.R.E.A.M. stands for “juice rules everything around me,” a nod to the American hip hop band Wu-Tang Clan’s classic ode to cash. The beers are meant to mimic smoothies. They are vibrant in color and luxuriously creamy, with an easy balance of tart and sweet flavors. Burley Oak, which opened in 2011, has produced over two dozen J.R.E.A.M. beers since debuting the series in late 2016. Each incorporates different blends of fruits, lactose, and other adjunct ingredients. The base beer is always a Berliner weisse that is kettle sourced with lactic acid bacteria.
Once a month, the brewery will premiere a new flavor which adult customers can try that day along either from the tap or with the soft serve ice cream style. Among the flavors they have featured is the blueberry cobbler with notes of blackberries, cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar—the drink is meant to bring customers back to their grandma's kitchen table and homemade pie. The mango lassi JREAM is inspired by a traditional Indian drink. With notes of cardamom, saffron, vanilla bean. A piña colada and açaí JREAM flavors have also been sold over the summer
The inspiration behind the JREAM beers and alcoholic soft serve is just another step in Burley Oak's experimentation with taste. “Its about offering a sensory experience to our customers,” Brushmiller said. The frozen treat is currently only available at the brewery for releases, and at its Burley Cafe in downtown Berlin, Md. The sour-beer soft serve is available to eat in or take away and comes in two sizes, 5 ounces and 16 ounces. For every batch of J.R.E.A.M. beer, one to two kegs are devoted to ice cream.
Other Ice Cream Beers Around the Country
In Elmsford New York, Captain Lawrence Brewing makes Fudgie the Beer using ice cream cake from Carvel’s famous Fudgie the Whale cake theme. The 6% ABV ice cream-infused beer has smooth cream cocoa notes with a roasted crunchies finish.
Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream an ice-cream shop in the Mission District of San Francisco, has a line of beer ice creams every year for that city’s Beer Week. They’re made by reducing each beer by half before adding milk and cream. Among top sellers has been Anchor Steam Cream made in partnership with the iconic Anchor Brewing.
In Denver, Sweet Action Ice Cream hosts its own Denver Beer Ice Cream Fest every September to coincide with Great American Beer Festival. Owners Chia Basinger and Sam Kopicko have made several beer ice cream concoctions, including four distinct flavors made with different versions of Great Divide Brewing’s Yeti Imperial Stout: Coffee Yeti Stout, Chocolate Yeti Butterscotch, Chocolate Yeti Boysenberry Swirl and Chocolate Yeti Butterfinger.
In Portland, Or., co-owner Tyler Malek of the artisan ice creamery Salt & Straw felt that making beer ice cream seemed like a natural fit for a city with so many breweries. To help with the process, he works with the brewers to make a beer syrup—a thick version of their unfermented wort that’s an exact replica of the beer. That helps ensure the flavor of the beer lasts through the cooking process into beer. Salt & Straw recently produced a Spent Grains & Bacon S’mores ice cream in conjunction with Breakside Brewery of Portland. The ice cream maker uses some of the spent grains used in brewing process. “We start by toasting the spent grains to bring out their sweetness, then grind them into a powder that forms the base of this campfire-ready ice cream,” he said. Add that to some transformed pork belly from a local farm and they make a bacon marshmallow fluff that streaks itself across each scoop.
In Cincinnati, UDF (United Dairy Farmers) and Rhinegeist Brewery make Tropical Truth, a beer-flavored ice cream with Rhingeists’s Truth IPA. The idea for the collaboration came about nearly two years ago, when UDF stores started selling Rhinegeist. It took a year and a half of brainstorming and taste testing to create an ice cream made with the fruit-forward, hoppy IPA. Tropical Truth is sold in cups and cones and its developers say it has a sweet, creamy and malty base, with grapefruit and citrus hop character as well as grapefruit and mango swirls.
New York beer beer ice cream is now legal, thanks to Gilligan’s Island (the drive-in)
The legalization of beer ice cream in New York has its genesis to 2016 when Mike Langoe and fellow ice cream makers at Gilligan’s Island Drive-in downed a few brews while make ice cream. That’s when they got the idea to mix beer with their vanilla ice cream from their Sherburne, N.Y. store. The result was a fantastic taste. But Langoe, a co-owner of the store, found out they had to change the law to be able to sell it. While a law allowing the same of wine ice cream was passed in 2008, it did not include beer.
With the help of their local lawmakers, they were able to fast track a bill through the New York legislature in 2018 in time for Gilligan’s to sell some of its beer ice cream at the State Fair in August. “As soon I we started selling it, people stop for it everyday,” Langoe said. “When we started experimenting we wanted to make sure the beer taste was prominent not just the sweetness for the sugar and cream,” Langoe said. He estimates the ice cream has about 3.5% alcohol by volume.
Under the new state law, the beer ice cream must be under 5% ABV Gilligan’s has three flavors of beer ice cream—an ice cream ale made with a dark ale, a coffee beer ice cream and a chocolate beer ice cream made with Bavarian chocolate, from Copper Turret Restaurant & Brewhouse and Good Nature Brewery. The beer ice cream is available year round at their shop located about halfway between Binghamton, N.Y. and Syracuse, N.Y.
Cheers to a sweet summer!