Sweets on Tap

The romance brewing between beer and ice cream

We first felt the passion at North Hollywood’s Idle Hour after tasting their crazy delicious adult root beer float—vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream enhanced with Ballast Point Fugu vodka and Not Your Father’s Root Beer, a spicy craft ale from Small Town Brewery in Illinois. Then there it was again on the menu at Calabasas’ Industry Bar & Grill— Not Your Father’s Root Beer with a vanilla scoop and once more at NoHo’s The Federal Bar—ice cream floats with the beer of your choice. The scary love child of Haagen-Dazs and Bud Light springs to mind.

If this all sounds a bit strange—we get it. “No one suggests that ice cream goes well with most macro-brews,” says Lauren O’Neill, general manager of Burbank’s Tony’s Darts Away. “I would say nothing light like a pilsner, which the macro-brands are based on,” Lauren tells us. Why? “It won’t be able to stand up to ice cream. You always want to match the intensity of the flavors when you are doing pairings.”

But Lauren says many of today’s craft beers, ales and porters can compete with a scoop. Those with chocolate or coffee overtones go naturally with vanilla. A couple of her favorites: Smog City’s Coffee Porter and Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.  

Less traditional pairings can work too. Citrusy Berliner Weisse wheat beer is often served with raspberry or woodruff (herb) syrup to cut its sourness so why not try a raspberry sorbet float instead?

As the popularity of craft beers grows, so does the desire to experiment. “We are seeing so many more craft beers now, so I think people are starting to have more fun with it,” Lauren says. “Mixing ice cream with an appropriate beer has the potential to truly create a new experience,” agrees Small Town Brewery’s Tim Kovac. 

It’s challenging for most bars to keep stocked with ice cream. So for that reason, Federal Bar is not currently offering beer floats, and Tony’s Darts Away features them with a special summer event. On the evening of June 7, Tony’s will serve floats made with craft beer from North Coast Brewing Company and Phantom Carriage. 

But hey—that’s no reason not to whip up a beer float at home right now. “It’s the best of both worlds, right? Dessert and alcohol,” Lauren says with a laugh.