When I tell people I go to the Tavern on Main (1507 Main St., Sarasota) on Tuesday nights and put ice cream in my beer, I get few different reactions. "That sounds absolutely delicious!" is not one of them.
A lot of people tend to shudder in mild revulsion when they imagine drinking a beer float. Some folks kind of cock their head to one side: "Beer ... ice cream ... mixed together?" They can't even conceive what it might be like to consume one. And then there are the ones who look at me like I've committed sacrilege: "Why the hell would I ever do that to my beer? Or my ice cream?"
All I can say to them is -- just try it. You might like it. And at half price on the TOM's ladies' night, you gals might like it a lot.
Beer float night at the TOM is a tasty collaboration between the Sarasota SmartyPints, a ladies-only craft beer enthusiasts' club, and our local Ben and Jerry's ice cream parlor. B&J owner Rick Almarode is a craft beer lover himself, and sponsors beer float night by donating a few pints of frozen goodness each week. The leaders of the SmartyPints devise the perfect pairing from the TOM's extensive list of drafts.
"I don't get to express my creativity like this very often," chapter leader Lisa Sobota told me over a glass of "The Peach Pit": N'Ice Chouffe Belgian Strong Dark Ale with Ben & Jerry's Peaches and Cream. With such dreamy recipes, Lisa and her fellow SmartyPints have been quite successful in coaxing girls and guys alike to taste the different weekly concoctions. My favorite so far? "Drivin' that Train" -- that's Cherry Garcia floated with Erie "Derailed" black cherry ale. Finding chocolate chunks at the bottom of my glass was surprisingly delightful.
TOM bartender Joseph Arnegger has the beer float technique down to a science. He actually looks a bit like a mad scientist as he pours the brew into a tulip-shaped glass, adds a scoop of ice cream, and then furiously shakes the glass from side to side until the head of the float explodes. You really have to commit to eating your beer, so to speak -- if you hesitate, you could wind up with float all over the place.
I'll warn you: Depending on the strength of your selected brew, a beer float is at least three times richer than a normal ice cream float. I would have loved to try a Peach Pit or the "Oatmeal Raisin Heath Cookie" (Boulder Beer Obovoid Oak-Aged Oatmeal Stout with Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch) but one was all I could handle. It might have been called a float, but that ain't how it acted once it was in my belly. On the upside, I could still enjoy half-priced beer -- sans ice cream -- all night long.
I think the combination of sugar and booze makes a float drinker somewhat giddy. The last time I shared a float with the SmartyPints, there were many foam mustaches and jukebox sing-alongs to '80s hits. I recall my belly hurting, but it was from laughter -- not the beer and ice cream combo! If you're feeling brave, go out next Tuesday and give beer for dessert a shot.