Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buvare: LA Beer Float Showdown!

Beer floats rule, that is a given.
The first time I tried one was an experiment at home in college, with my favorite beer Black Butte Porter and I think Tofutti vanilla almond bark soy ice cream. It was.. interesting.. making clear that the right ingredients and balance were key. Years later, Portland's beloved Pix Patisserie set that suspicion straight with their ultra-rich Rogue Chocolate Stout float with homemade mocha ice cream (they also make one with Lindeman’s Framboise and homemade vanilla)!
More recently, I was excited to see that local favorite the Golden State put a beer float on their menu with Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and Scoops' famous brown bread ice cream. When downtown's BottleRock beer and wine bar added Belgian-style beer floats featuring sweet-spot MILK's ice creams, an innate if not good-natured beef was born.
This past Sunday, Food GPS teamed up with Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood (to host as a neutral meeting grounds) for the first ever LA Beer Float Showdown! All proceeds benefited 826LA, the non-profit writing and tutoring program for kids under 18, founded by Dave Eggers and Nínive Calegari.My cohort Cara and I arrived on the scene Sunday, thirsty for the good stuff, snagging the last two stools at the bar just before the competition began. We happened to be seated right in front of the BottleRock/MILK dispatch station, BottleRock's beer director Alex Macy grinning despite a late keg delivery for their second float. "So.. do you guys want a float, or what?" he asked as the starting shots were fired. We got their first two floats, pairing Allagash Curieux (Tripel aged in bourbon barrels) with MILK's vanilla bean ice cream (pictured at top). Cara's first words were "I don't like that" noting the bitterness of the beer, but the curious combo was intriguing to me. The creamy vanilla did bring out the bourbon notes in the Allagash, which is a lovely Tripel, but the balance did seem slightly off, the two flavors mingling side by side on the palate but never melding.MILK's Jesse Furman & BottleShock's Alex Macy hustlin'.The Golden State's Jason Bernstein & Scoops' Tai Kim's calm powerhouse.Next we tried Team Golden State/Scoops' first offering - and the most inventive of the day - a pairing of the Bruery's tart German-style Hottenroth Berliner Weisse with raspberry-yuzu sorbet. This had a silken creamy head and looked like a more substantial "float" than the previous. The flavors were tart and light, best suited for the hot summer day outside. The sorbet teetered on on the verge of too sweet for the weisse however - I found myself fishing for the melty islands which was the only point against it. Unity is key!The next round kicked things up a heavy notch. Macy came back with one of my current favorite beers - St. Bernardus ABT 12 - paired with coffee toffee ice cream. Since he was concerned about not getting the St. Bernardus in time, Blue Palms proprietor Brian Lenzo pitched in a keg of Samichlaus (a 14% ABV Austrian doppelbock- the Guinness Book of Records' strongest lager beer in the world) which Macy offered us to try as a bonus. He seemed very excited about the option, but advised that the St. Bernardus and coffee toffee were the superior, intended match. We had to agree. The Samichlaus was indeed delicious; huge, fruity, bright and strong! The delightfully crunchy and creamy coffee toffee (my favorite ice cream of the day) preferred the dark and robust St. Bernardus though - the first successful fusion of layered flavors thus far.The Golden State finished with their signature float off the restaurant menu (initially slightly disappointing), but amped it up a bit. Sticking by their Old Rasputin and brown bread ice cream combo, Sunday's guests got an additional scoop of a specially made ice cream for the event - a "reduced" Old Rasputin caramel cinnamon ice cream(!). This float won me over by a landslide. Back with another moussey cream-thick head, this time around melding notes of cocoa, coffee, malt, bread yeast, and spice... A cherry on top whilst proving "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
In the end, the Golden State & Scoops defeated BottleRock & MILK by a count of 930.5 to 781. After expenses, the event raised $1350 for 826LA. It was a day of winners, if you ask me.
So who's up for a backyard beer float competition, um, like ASAP?

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