I just spent an hour talking with someone who has a terrific idea – ice cream – for Sacramento-area craft breweries.
Specifically, small-batch gourmet ice cream made with beer as the featured ingredient.
That’s the basic concept of The Craft Creamery, a new venture that’s gearing up to tantalize our taste buds with several events during Sacramento Beer Week in March, then launch as a full-blown business sometime this spring.
The mastermind behind The Craft Creamery is 34-year-old Jesse Sahlin, who is not only a very engaging entrepreneur but a foodie and beer lover of the highest order. When he developed his business plan, the idea from the get-go was the marriage of ice cream and beer.
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Here’s how it works. The Craft Creamery will take beer from local breweries, consult with the brewers about flavor profiles and expectations, then retreat to the food lab to create a customized gourmet ice cream featuring the beer. Along the way, the creamery will add herbs, spices, fruit, etc. that help tease out certain flavors and showcase the best of what that specific beer is all about.
“That’s the intention, to work with the brewers and create flavor profiles that they can stand behind,” Sahlin told me.
The brewery then sells the ice cream out of the tasting room to customers eager for a new kind of beer experience. Beer for dessert? Yes, please.
Will this idea take off? I went to a private tasting this week and was floored by how good the stuff was. It was ice cream. It was beer. It was something new and wonderful and exciting.
At the tasting, where Sahlin walked me through the process of creating and making his ice creams, I especially enjoyed those using one of Moonraker’s hazy India pale ales and Mraz’s signature barrel-aged sour, The Cardinal.
You’ve probably heard by now how good Moonraker is and that its hazy IPAs have this juicy body and finish, along with a burst of citrus notes from the hops. Sahlin takes those tasting notes and strives to highlight them when blended with his gourmet ice cream base. Because ice cream tends to tone down some of these flavors, Sahlin took toasted coriander, fresh-squeezed orange juice and orange zest and folded them into the ice cream to create an outstanding taste experience. Think of a rich and full-flavored Creamsicle where you need to pull out your ID for the privilege of buying it.
It was so very good that the photographer and I had trouble putting down our spoons and getting back to, you know, doing serious journalism.
I wasn’t surprised the Mraz sour worked so well as an ice cream. I’ve had the Jesus Juice sorbet at Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco and remember how well the red wine component worked in a frozen dessert. Sahlin’s creation uses additions of red wine and a blackberry reduction with the Mraz sour. It was basically like eating a spoonful of a rich, creamy sour beer – with hints of a fro-yo tang – that coats your mouth and delights your taste buds. Crazy good.
Some of the other beer ice creams from The Craft Creamery include a Track 7 Bee Line Blond with coriander, honey and lemon zest; Coronado’s Orange Ave. Wit with orange blossom raw honey, coriander and orange zest; and New Glory’s Blueberry Flippin’ Good, a brown ale where Sahlin infused the ice cream with a family blueberry pancake recipe.
Sahlin, who attended graduate school at UC Davis in applied mathematics, thinks now is an ideal time to launch The Craft Creamery. The numbers bear that out: 60-plus craft breweries in the region all looking to make more money and satisfy their customers.
“This is a business model that I have been sitting on since 2010, but we just didn’t have what we have now (in terms of breweries),” he said. “You taste the Mraz – we didn’t have sours then.”
Then we started talking about how many other local breweries are making superb beers in such diverse styles, and, with our sample spoons still in hand, how Sahlin’s options for creating delicious beer ice cream are now practically limitless.