For those of you who celebrate Halloween, I hope that your bellies are full of candy.
For those of you who don’t, go buy yourself a big bag of Snickers. You deserve it 🙂
So, All Hallows’ Eve has come and gone, and here in Northeastern Ohio, that can only mean one thing: Great Lakes Brewery Christmas Ale.
If you live in the region, you understand the gravity of this sentence.
Here in Ohio, Christmas season starts early. On October 24th, to be exact. This is when Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Co. taps its infamous Christmas Ale for the first time of the season, and you’d better believe it is THE event of the year. We’re talking media coverage, lines in the streets, even Santa himself makes the trek from the North Pole to get a taste of the spicy yet sweet-as-honey beverage.
Santa, people. It’s that good.
About a week later, madness ensues as Christmas Ale starts showing up in local grocery stores. Normal, law-abiding citizens turn to crazed, Christmas Ale seeking fiends as they stalk Great Lakes’ delivery trucks, learning when and where stops are made each week. Contributing to the frenzy is the fact that this Ohio treasure is only available for about 8 weeks, which means folks are currently in the process of stockpiling for the entire winter.
When our local supermarket received its first shipment, a Tweet was delivered to my phone…and my heart was instantly full of emotion: Excitement, as the dream of Christmas Ale in my fridge became closer to reality. Joy, as I thought of that very first sip. Then…crushing defeat as I realized that I was an entire work day away from being able to secure my first 6-pack.
I cannot explain the heartache I endured, sitting in my cubicle-home, wondering if any Ale would be left by the time I made it to the store.
I don’t even really like beer all that much. But this stuff makes my mouth water.
Besides, it’s an Ohio tradition.
This year, in honor of the blog, I thought I’d start my own little tradition: Christmas Ale Ice Cream.
I was a little nervous about adding so much alcohol to ice cream, so I turned to the undisputed experts: America’s Test Kitchen. If you too, are weary, read this article. Now.
Are you done yet? Good.
So now you know – the key to a successful beer ice cream is to first simmer a portion of the beer to get rid of the excess water. The rest is easy peasy!
The result? Rich and creamy, soft and smooth, boozy but not too boozy. This stuff is pretty darn perfect. I’ve also added a ginger and cinnamon graham cracker swirl – reminiscent of the cinnamon sugar mixture that many bars in town use to rim the glasses in which Christmas Ale is served.
You can use any Christmas Ale, just as long as it’s between 8% and 12% ABV (Great Lakes is actually 7.5%, but was absolutely wonderful, so you could probably stretch those boundaries a little bit).
How do you know its the holiday season in your part of town?
Christmas Ale Ice Cream
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yield: Approximately two quarts
You will need:
For the ice cream:
12 ounces (1 bottle) of Christmas Ale between 8% to 12% ABV)
1 tsp of vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
2 cups of heavy cream
¾ cups white sugar
½ tsp of salt
For the ginger graham swirl:
1 package of graham crackers (about 6 crackers), crushed into fine crumbs
¼ cup white sugar
1.5 teaspoons ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves
¼ cup butter (salted or unsalted), melted
Fine mesh sieve
- In a medium skillet, heat 5 ounces of the beer over medium heat. Cook until reduced by half (about ten minutes). Once reduced, combine with the rest of the beer in a large glass or liquid measuring cup. Add the vanilla extract, stir, and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, lightly break up egg yokes with a whisk. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, sugar, and salt. Heat until the granules of sugar are melted and the mixture begins to steam.
- Add the heated cream to the egg yokes, a little at a time, whisking the egg yolks constantly (you don’t want scrambled eggs!).
- Once all of the heated cream has been added to the yolks, add the mixture back to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon. After about ten minutes, the mixture will thicken (you will feel it start to “push back” against your spoon). Once the mixture covers the spoon, but leaves a clear path when you wipe your finger across, your custard is done!
- Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl. This is where you will add your beer! Stir to combine, and refridgerate mixture for 4 hours or preferably, overight.
- Make the graham cracker crust: combine the processed/crushed grahams with sugar, ginger, cinnamon, gloves, and melted butter. Stir to combine, and press to the bottom of a pie pan. Bake at 375 for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Freeze your ice cream according to the manufacturer’s direcions.
- Once the ice cream is frozen, swirl in graham pieces by hand. Then enjoy! Try not to faint. Or, freeze overnight for a firmer texture. You might not be able to wait, though 🙂