We ran across the intriguing idea of the beer float online a few months back and just knew it was something we had to try come the summer. After all, almost everybody but the lactose-intolerant likes ice cream. Almost everybody but the teetotaler likes beer. Why not put them together? (The ice cream and the beer, not the teetotalers and the lactose-intolerant. That could spell disaster.)
While a beer float is something you can easily whip up at home — a few scoops of quality vanilla, doused in your brew of choice — we decided to sniff around locally and see if there was one to be had in a commercial setting. Luckily, the Vatican City of Beers that is the Flying Saucer in the River Market happens to have a beer float on its standing menu for around $4. While it's generally made with a chocolate stout, the bar is happy to make that puppy with any brew on the menu as long as you're willing to pay for the suds. Given that, we waved off the fancy stuff and went decidedly trailer-trash style, ordering a Pabst Blue Ribbon Float. The PBR float offered an interesting pair of contradictory flavors — one predictable, the other unexpected. The vanilla ice cream was, of course, sweet. But the surprising part was the foam that formed, presumably as the cheap brew was poured atop the ice cream. It was thin stuff — no mistaking it for some luxuriously dense haute cuisine concoction a la El Bulli's foamed beetroot or mushrooms (yes, of course the Arkansas Times has reviewed El Bulli). But it maintained its form on the spoon just long enough to savor, and collapsed in the mouth like a bad souffle. The flavor was surprisingly — but not unpleasantly — bitter. It was reminiscent of some of the medicinal liqueurs, such as Becherovka, favored in certain central European nations.
As for the rest of the beverage, well, it tasted like vanilla ice cream melting in a glass of cheap beer, which is to say awesome (provided you enjoy vanilla ice cream and cheap beer). The mix of sugar rush and booze buzz creates a feeling of effervescence and momentum, a saccharine sensation, which, like the aforementioned foam, is sure to soon collapse and evaporate. So, in short, not bad, but not a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's either. That said, we're sold on the concept, which has awakened our mad scientist hearts. A trip to the make-your-own-six-pack aisle at Kroger (stouts! lagers! ales!) and the ice cream case (vanilla! chocolate! butter pecan!) is clearly in order, and sounds like a fun way to kill some summer Saturday night with a few foodventurous peeps. Let's face it: even if you're experimentin' turns out horrible, how bad can a concoction made of beer and ice cream really be?
If you come up with a beer float winner, send us a recipe and a picture at email@example.com, and we'll feature you on our food blog, Eat Arkansas.