This summer, dozens of breweries are swapping their shaker pints and Teku glasses for cones and mugs. A small but growing number of beverage producers are using breakthrough technology to turn their beverages into frozen “ice cream”. In scoop fashion, fruit stouts and sour topped with chocolate chips and sauce are flying from the taprooms as temperatures rise.
All thanks to a creation by WDS Dessert Stations in Huntley, Ill.: A proprietary gel called NEA (which stands for Nitrogen Ingredient Additive, although it was misspelled on the patent) that allows any alcohol to freeze in an almost solid in its subzero soft serve machine. “That’s what makes the impossible possible,” says chef and creator Will Rogers, who has used the system at catering events for years to serve alcoholic treats like vodka lemonade cones.
Other beer makers have dabbled in frozen beers before and slush machines aren’t new to brewery bars, but it’s only recently that alcoholic soft serve sundaes have made their way onto menus. breweries that broke new ground with the sub-zero serving alcohol system, and it took off almost by accident.
“When I first designed these machines, never in a million years did I think that the brewing industry was our main market… [but] these brewers are real chefs. They are chefs in their craft, ”says Rogers. “If you think beer is just Miller or Bud, you don’t think of these fruits [sours], coconut stouts. … It’s ice cream!
The local company, Ten Eyck in Queenstown, just handed out its very first beer cones last week. “It’s ice cold beer. Yes, it’s true, ”Nicki Sener, co-founder of the brewery. “We have the very first beer serving machine in Maryland. It turns our beer into a delicious, cold and creamy treat.
The first flavor to try with the new magical making machine – Bicycle Face Crush – a sour and fruity beer loaded with vanilla and tangerine and reminiscent of everyone’s favorite summer treat, orange crush!
With a plethora of other hard ciders, hard seltts, and sour like Independence Day cider and Bicycle Face dragon fruit, they shouldn’t be short of fun flavors to try turning into frozen treats.
The story of this fantastic invention begins with something completely opposite to alcohol, however: while running an ice cream shop, Rogers and his team created massively caffeinated espresso ice cream. This led to thinking about how to find a way to go to the other side of the equation: alcoholic ice cream.
After a few years of experimenting with gums and stabilizers in the ice cream industry, “it kind of moved my chemistry forward,” Rogers says of the formulation process. The product is FDA approved, dairy free (so no, it’s not technically “ice cream”) and fully pasteurized – “it’s even certified kosher,” Rogers adds. “Everything in terms of safety, we have exceeded it. And while one might assume that a banana custard pie won’t pack the same punch as the IPA it’s made from, the alcohol itself isn’t wasted at all. So it doesn’t matter whether you put a high ABV stout or an easy-drinking Berlin weisse in the machine, you will always have the equivalent of a beer.
One of the first brewers to start experimenting with the system was Mikerphone’s Michael Pallen, whose trial brewing approach was a perfect match for the kind of creativity that NEA gel allows. After watching a demo at another nearby brewery, “I basically said to Will, ‘Put my email in your phone, I want to buy it tomorrow. I can’t say no to this thing.
Creative potential aside, Pallen’s pursuit of a taproom experience that offers something for everyone was also key to the appeal – the Mikerphone space also has an alcohol-free slushie machine. dedicated so that kids have something fun to drink too – and putting beer in different physical shapes certainly does the trick. “As the weather warms up and you walk out into the tasting room, you just see about 20 people with an ice cream cone and you’re like: This is it, that’s why we did it”, Pallen said.
While almost all of the beers produced by Mikerphone go through machine testing, Pallen found that Berliners with low ABV content, as well as cheesecake-inspired beers and pastry ales were the biggest winners. until now. “These tend to do the best because it makes sense in your head that it’s almost ice cream, because it contains the elements that are components of ice cream,” he says.
Jake Schinker of Eagle Park Brewing and Distilling in Milwaukee also loved the machine right off the bat. “When we first put this thing on… it was like Christmas morning – the kind of feeling like [when] you get a great toy and you’re like, ‘What can we do with it?’ He said. “It gets the creative juices flowing and sort of generates some silly but great ideas.”
Eagle Park also has the benefit of its own exclusive spirits to play with, although the first experience was with one of its Melted Imperial Stouts. “It was obvious for a first try,” says Schinker. “But we certainly learned quickly that we can do almost anything with it. We have some pretty talented bartenders here, so when it comes to developing cocktail recipes, it’s just another way for them to go wild.
Since the machine can turn any type of spirits into a soft drink (Rogers says they turned moonlight into a solid form), Eagle Park quickly realized that he could not only play with beer, but also with cocktails and hybrid drinks. “This is probably the pinnacle of craft beer today: we make a hard seltzer inspired by the Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid. So we use that as a base, and then add our vodka, lemon juice, and mashed cherries, and it kind of makes a bomb-flavored ice cream cone, ”he says.
Other classic cocktails have gone into the mix: Harvey Wallbangers, Piña Coladas, Daiquiris, and more. The winner so far? “The most popular was our Old Fashioned bourbon,” says Schinker. “It’s still Wisconsin so it worked out pretty well.”
Naturally, this is a system that appeals to brewers working in less forgiving climates than those of Chicago or Milwaukee. Miami’s J. Wakefield Brewing has been using the system for some time, and owner Johnathan Wakefield is a fan as well. “In warmer weather here… it’s been fine,” said Wakefield. “Now that it’s starting to get 85 to 90 degrees every day, this thing is taking off.”
“This stuff” is mostly a variety of its fruity sour that turn into creations with toppings including a caramel or chocolate sauce and cherries on top. “It’s basically a sundae presentation… minus the banana, I guess,” Wakefield says.
He says stouts don’t move as fast as sour, with the biggest winner being the fruit punch-tasting Sour Haterade. “He comes out that bright red, and then we hit him with cake chips. … It’s like a fruit sorbet, and it’s tangy and sweet, so it’s an experience, ”says Wakefield.
The ability to surprise is also clearly part of the appeal. Just when you thought you’d found the limits of what can be done with alcohol, here’s a new option to play with. “I mean, I’m 43,” Wakefield says. “I walked around the block and saw a lot. … It was always the idea that you can never really freeze alcohol. And it’s completely different.
Perhaps the best part of the system is the turnaround time. While slush machines take hours to spin beer into ice crystal form, the Below Zero can produce a new batch in just a few minutes. “We take our beer, we degass it to remove all the CO2, [mix in] freeze, put it in the machine and within 30 minutes we have the ice cream, ”says Pallen, who notes that beers with higher ABVs take longer to turn. Wakefield takes its fruity acids one step further: “It’s ready in about five minutes. “
The only downside, however, is the price. The machines bought by WDS are quiet (“This thing is a lot like the Ferrari compared to other soft-serves,” says Rogers) and the gel itself is only available through WDS, so breweries or distilleries can expect to spend over $ 6,000 to get one onsite.
Even with that expense, most places don’t add a lot of extra cost for their cones and sundaes, but the novelty is enough to make the expense pay off quickly. “I think the first weekend we basically paid for both machines,” Pallen says. “It was crazy.”
More places are adding them to their taprooms every week, but if you’re not near one of these innovative breweries in the sweet food space, don’t worry. “It’s kinda crazy,” says Rogers. “We’ve used our gel in some of the residential kitchens and… yes, it works. We think we could have a whole new market.