Can you remember the first time you had a root beer float? It was probably summer, and your mom decided to give you a special treat. Just one taste of that combo of carbonated, sugary-sweet soda with cold, creamy vanilla and you were hooked.
No matter how old you are, it's still a damned good combo -- and a damned good way to enjoy real beer. After all, the best way to drink alcohol is when you pair it with food that helps to bring out the subtle nuances of each craft selection. And what better pairing than with dessert, like -- say -- a mug of beer spiked with whiskey and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? It couldn't be easier to make and replicate at home. Just a pint of ice cream, a six-pack of your favorite beer (and maybe a shot or two of liquor) is all you need. Done: a drink for those of us who like their dessert, and prefer to drink it, too.
So we asked several Palm Beach and Broward County establishments specializing in craft beer what they thought would make the best pairing -- no Guinness allowed. They were kind enough to give us their favorite tips and recipes for serving a beer float, and while not all of them have this awesome drink on the menu, we think it might have given them some food for thought. Thanks guys!
5. Pair With a Stout or Porter
At local breweries including Boca Raton's Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery and Due South Brewing Co. in Boynton Beach, the staff suggests pairing ice cream with porters and stouts -- dark, rich beers that make for the most authentic float. While it's tempting to imagine Due South's caramel cream ale would be a natural for making one sweet-ass float, owners Mike and Jodi Halker suggest using the roasted cocoa stout for its richness, gravity and its strong chocolate flavor imparted by natural cocoa nibs. Just a few scoops of your favorite ice cream should do the trick. At The Funky Buddha -- which has been making beer floats for several years now -- a favorite choice continues to be their own espresso piiti milk porter. Brewed with coffee, maple syrup, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and coconut, it's a treat all its own even without the shot or two of vanilla ice cream.
4. Use a Flavorful Craft Beer
At Tap 42 in Fort Lauderdale the clear choice for a beer float would be Cigar City's Maduro Brown, a hearty brown ale that pairs well with ice cream thanks to its silky mouthfeel imparted by a good dose of oatmeal during brewing. Beverage Manager Paige Nast suggests a standard cookie dough ice cream -- like a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie in a glass, but better.
3. Try Specialty Ice Cream in Funky Flavors
The Blind Monk in West Palm Beach is best known for its selection of boutique wines, but equally good selection of ever-rotation craft beers is another side to the cozy wine bar's sophisticated menu. The restaurant also recently revamped their tapas menu to include a well-thought-out selection of small plates and specialty imported cheeses, all meant to pair well with the drink menus. A dessert beer float you may see in the near future as a seasonal special would be owner Ben Lubin's own housmade carrot cake ice cream paired with beer manager Jason Hunt's choice of the Dayman Coffee IPA, a collaboration brew between Aleman, Stone and Illinois-based Two Brothers Brewing that is made with coffee for a strong beer that gives off an extra-spicy, rich taste.
2. Use Melted Chocolate to Rim the Glass
Tim Lipman, owner and executive chef of Coolinary Cafe Jupiter, has a few creative ways to serve beer. More often than not you'll find the restaurant keeps Colorado's Left Hand milk stout on nitro, making this full-bodied, sweet-style stout pour extra thick and creamy -- just the way it needs to be for a float. Lipman's favorite way to serve it is with chocolate chips -- frothed and steamed at the top of the glass like you would a cappuccino -- and a scoop of his homemade whiskey-infused vanilla ice cream. As if doesn't sound decadent enough, Coolinary Cafe has several specialty dessert-style beers served with melted white or milk chocolate on the rim. His wife, Jennifer, prefers Shipyard brewery's Applehead, the brewery's apple and cinnamon-infused wheat ale, made specialty when served with a caramel-rimmed glass and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream for a slice of apple pie in a glass.
1. Add a Shot of Liquor
At Sweetwater in Boynton Beach, bartender and co-owner Sean Iglehart suggests his personal favorite recipe -- and one with an extra kick. While any citrusy wheat beer will do, Iglehart's favorite pairing teams up the restaurant's housemade raspberry sorbet with Blanche de Bruxelles, a Belgian white ale with orange peel notes. The final touch: a floater of Averell damson plum gin liqueur for another layer of fruity flavor. (Another good pairing with an extra dose of alcohol that's less fancy, but equally appealing: mint chocolate chip ice cream with a shot of Baileys Irish Cream and Young's double