How To Make Beer Ice Cream

A series on things to make, eat and imbibe this summer.

My current pipe dream is to drive an ice-cream food truck and stock it with nontraditional flavors—tamarind sorbet, dark chocolate-beet ice cream, honey mustard custard. So far I can see only two obstacles: not having start-up capital and not having a driver’s license. But even if it were to happen, I still wouldn’t be able to sell my favorite recipe as there are probably crazy restrictions on selling alcohol-soaked ice cream out of a brightly colored van.

The recipe here is adapted from a four-ingredient beaut from the LA Times that happens to be the second result you get when you Google “beer ice cream.” There are only two steps. I KNOW. The recipe was super-easy to begin with, and I’ve since found a few easy tweaks that make it essentially foolproof. You can trust me on this, I am a fool and I have proofed this. If there were any additional ways to make this ice cream wrong, I would have uncovered them. But this recipe is simple to make, and the four-ingredient part is wonderful, too. It’s also a good one to double.

Ingredients:
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar [see notes below]
1 cup beer (8 ounces, so you’re fine with a single bottle or can)
1 cup heavy cream

Special Equipment:
ice-cream maker, bowl that can get really hot without melting, helper (optional)

Yield: a pint and a half

1. Mix the egg yolks and the sugar together in a bowl that can stand a lot of heat. I prefer to do this by hand, although not necessarily by my hand. If there’s someone else around, hand the bowl over and ask them to whisk the bejeezus out of the yolks and sugar. The promise of beer ice cream is usually enough to convince someone to do this for you. Which frees your arms up for…

2. Heat the beer and heavy cream to a simmer in a pot over the stove, stirring occasionally. If you leave the room and it foams over the side of the pot a bit, don’t despair! That happens to me more often than I should admit and it always works out okay (I told you this was foolproof). While it simmers, drink the rest of the beer.

3. Pour the hot beer cream into the sugar yolks. Do this slowly, and if your friend is around have them whisk while you pour (watch out for splashing). If you’re doing this solo, you’ll have to go easy: pour a little bit of hot beer cream into the eggs, whisk swiftly, pour a little more into the bowl, whisk again, and so on until everything’s in the mixing bowl. If the egg yolks heat up too quickly, you will have milky sweet scrambled eggs. Try to avoid that.

4. Pour the mixture back into the pot and heat over low until it’s thickened, stirring occasionally. As instructions go, “thickened” is really vague; the first few times I made ice cream I had no idea how to tell if it was thick enough and warmed it for like half an hour. I like recipes to be overly specific, so: between five and seven minutes. It should “coat the spoon.” It won’t be like pudding, which is what I expected the first time around. Just… a little bit thicker.

5. Pour the whole thing back into the mixing bowl and leave it in the fridge, ideally overnight but for at least five hours. The LA Times recipe suggests that you pour it through a strainer, but this has never made a noticeable difference to me. Pour it through a strainer if you feel like it.

6. After the cooling period, churn! Churn like the wind! As it says on every ice cream recipe, churn according to the instructions on your ice cream maker.

7. Post-churn, the ice cream will have the consistency of soft serve. IT IS NOT DONE YET even though it tastes amazing. Transfer your ice cream to a container and put it in the freezer for a minimum of three hours. Tupperware is fine, though frequent freezing may cause the plastic to crack. I bought a sleeve of disposable pint containers, which is a little wasteful but if you’re bringing the ice cream somewhere, it looks neat and you don’t have to worry about getting the container back.

8. That’s it! Enjoy your delicious homemade beer ice cream!

Miscellaneous notes:

• If you’re using a bitter or excessively hoppy beer, consider increasing the sugar by up to ¼ cup if you want more of a classic ice-cream taste. If you want it to just taste like the beer, disregard this advice but do not decrease the sugar! There’s some science-y purpose it serves, I dunno.

• This recipe is the one I use most often when making ice cream. It’s extremely versatile just because of the staggering amount of beers you can use. Sweet, rich beers make for the most decadent ice cream: try a fruit lambic or Trappist ale.. The beer in the photos, Southern Tier’s Imperial Choklat Stout produced a delightful twist on a standard chocolate ice cream. But it was chosen only because Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout wasn’t yet available—that one is released annually in June. I hoard bottles of this stuff for ice-cream purposes, it’s that good.

• Because the yield here is approximately a pint and a half, I often double the recipe so it produces an even three pints. Should you do this, the only amendment to the recipe (aside from the amounts, naturally) is to chill it in two bowls. Churning it all at once may overload the machine. As for the machine itself? I use a Cuisinart that was on sale for like $35. These things are always on sale somewhere.

Previously: Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus


Victoria Johnson eats dessert first.