Summer’s perfect pair: Lick and Lazarus Brewing combine ice cream, beer

Booze and dessert might be similarly indulgent, but they aren’t so easy to pair.

On a recent weekday afternoon at Lazarus Brewing, one of the long tables inside is covered with the detritus of experimentation. Snifter glasses half-filled with beer in shades of gold and brown are spread among tiny taster cups of ice cream in various stages of the melting process, one already an outright puddle thanks to the beam of mid-July sun streaming through the window. On the edge of the table are two teetering notebooks, open and filled with scribbled ideas.

Their owners, Anthony Sobotik of Lick Honest Ice Creams and Matt Couch of Lazarus, a brewpub in East Austin, have just tried more than a half-dozen different ice cream and beer combinations, and now they have a pretty good idea of what pairings they’ll showcase to participants in their July 31 tasting event at the brewpub.

It won’t be the first time that beer is getting paired with Lick’s frozen scoops — the campus-area gastropub Hopfields debuted the concept a few years ago, when the bar’s employee and certified cicerone Marcus TenHarmsel thought combining the two vices might make for an adventurous pairing. Now that he’s at Lazarus, he’s taken the idea with him.

Sobotik, who co-owns Lick’s four shops in Central Texas with partner Chad Palmatier, is still on board. No matter how many of these he’s done, he remains fascinated by the interplay between ice cream and beer.

“I’m always surprised by what we come up with and how different they can taste just by being consumed together,” he says as we talk following his and Couch’s planning session. “The ice cream changes the whole profile of the beer. And vice versa.”

Newcomer Couch, who came to Austin from the esteemed Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania last year, has enthusiastically embraced the match-up. His expertise as a brewer means, for instance, he knows how to arrange the beers down a line of pairings in a way that won’t fatigue your palate (hint: not by color — the instinctual arrangement — but by alcohol content, which he says will tire out your taste buds the higher it is).

Nowadays, of course, there are countless dinners or tastings that pair beer and just about any type of food under the sun. Beer and cheese are natural companions. Beer even ousted milk as the beverage to try with holiday cookies a couple of Christmases ago, when one cookbook author went full-tilt on making sure we wouldn’t fit into our pants by New Years with his “Cookies and Beer” book.

But beer and ice cream? Perhaps it’s the frosty nature of ice cream that make them seem like such odd bedfellows. But, as I taste my way through the pairings Sobotik and Couch just proposed for their event, I marvel at how they really do seem to complement each other, enhancing a citrus note in the beer, say, that wasn’t so noticeable before, or combining to make an entirely new flavor profile.

“I’m getting German chocolate cake with these. First a milk chocolate character, then dark chocolate,” Couch says as we taste Lazarus’ Achilles Heel, a dry Irish stout, with Lick’s dark chocolate with olive oil and sea salt.

Separately, the beer and the ice cream don’t taste like the rich and decadent dessert. But put them together and I can’t stop licking my spoon. Sip first, Sobotik recommends, then have a small taste of the ice cream, then return to the beer. That way, you’ll get your bearings with something that isn’t as drastically cold as the ice cream — as well as start to realize how they both change.

Plus, “you’ll get to drink more beer that way,” he jokes. “Since I get ice cream any time I want, I need to increase my beer intake.”

While that pairing might be what you’d expect — a dark and malty beer matched with chocolate ice cream — many of Lick’s flavors aren’t exactly common. Other pairings you might see July 31 include the Pale Morning Dun, a helles lager, with cilantro-lime ice cream; and the Amandus, a Belgian strong golden ale, with goat cheese, thyme and honey ice cream. Their diversity makes it easier to pair them with beer styles beyond porters and stouts.

The local scoops shop has 10 year-round flavors and many others that are seasonal and based on what local farmers can provide, from Hill Country peaches to Texas-grown bananas from a fruit grower east of Georgetown. (Lick also has sometimes added booze directly to its ice cream, as in the case of its tequila lime coconut flavor, which might be paired with the Gose, a collaboration Lazarus made with upcoming East Austin project the Brewer’s Table.)

MORE:Get to know Austin’s breweries, distilleries and more in the Austin360 Boozery Guide

Lazarus is no different in that regard. Couch is constantly making new beers to keep the tap wall fresh and the adventurous regulars happy.

“We can only do these pairings with whatever we have on tap, obviously,” Couch says, and then pauses as he tries the Amandus with the goat cheese, thyme, and honey ice cream. “This one reminds me of charcuterie in a sense: fruits and cheeses together on a cheese board. It’s like getting that all in one short experience.”

Sobotik concurs. “This one might be my favorite pairing,” he says.

Not everything they’ve tried during the planning sessions has worked — Lazarus’ Double Predestination Double IPA with Lick’s grapefruit and coconut ice cream tasted like “lacquer,” Couch says. But you can rest assured the final results will leave you licking the spoon, too.

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