Beer Floats

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Author Brent Zundel

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
September 27, 2012

I’m going to share with you one of the greatest discoveries I have ever made. I’m not sure you deserve this paradigm-shifting information without any effort of your own, but it’s so seductive I can’t resist.

Beer floats.

The infamous ex-Exponenter Mike Tarrant, of enduring Mikeservations fame, introduced this concept to me a few years ago. For this recipe, you’ll need a growler-full of a specialty beer and a heaping portion of Wilcoxson’s vanilla ice cream, churned right next door in Livingston.

A beer float made with Big Sky Brewing's Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout and Wilcoxson's finest vanilla ice cream.

A beer float made with Big Sky Brewing’s Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout and Wilcoxson’s finest vanilla ice cream.

The accompanying chart lists a few beers that Mike and I selected as exceptional for use in a float. Basically, any beer with a dark, syrupy flavor and low bitterness (IBUs) will work well. Chocolate and coffee flavors are a delicious bonus and highly recommended. Personally, I love using oatmeal stouts because the oats add smoothness and sweetness to the stout’s dark, roasted body.

Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream, hidden in a windowless concrete and stucco building in downtown Livingston, has been a Montana institution since 1912. They have no web page, almost never advertise and refuse interviews, but ice cream parlors from Stevensville to Cooke City proudly advertise Wilcoxson’s finest.

First, slowly pour your beer of choice into a pint glass or beer stein until it’s about three-quarters full. Then, gently scoop in a few dobs of ice cream.

You can top off your glass with beer, but if you reverse the steps and pour all the beer over your ice cream, you’ll end up with a foamy mess. Trust me on that.

I know this concept sounds strange. Since my first beer float, I’ve introduced many of my friends to the idea. At first, a look of “Oh, my God, this guy is such an alcoholic he can’t even eat ice cream without getting smashed” crosses their faces. But after a beer float or two, almost everyone comes around. If nothing else, it’s a delicious conversation piece for someone who’s never considered the idea before. Trust me on that.

Click to enlarge

Mike Tarrant contributed to the beer-drinking and brainstorming for this column.


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