Rustico's Frozen Beer Treat Is Not to Regulators' Taste

By Matthew Barakat
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, June 28, 2007

It might be one of the great alcoholic innovations of the 21st century -- the frozen beer pop, served by an Alexandria restaurateur and bar owner in a variety of sizes and in flavors such as "Raspbeer-y" and "Fudgesicle."

But state regulators say the beer-sicles run afoul of rules governing the serving and pouring of beer.

The story of the frozen beer pop began this month at Rustico Restaurant, where executive chef Frank Morales began selling the treats to customers looking for a more adult way to beat the heat.

After weeks of testing several hundred beer varieties to find flavors that taste good on a stick, Rustico finally settled on three flavors: "Raspbeer-y," made with a Belgian, fruit-style beer; "Plum," made from a Belgian Lambic brew; and the "Fudgesicle," made with a stout with bittersweet chocolate undertones. He plans to offer other flavors on a rotating basis.

The beer pops sell for $4 in the six-ounce size, shaped like a traditional Popsicle, and $6 for a larger "beer cone."

The company put out a press release, and an Associated Press reporter -- who now feels like a snitch -- placed a call to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, asking whether frozen beer poses regulatory problems.

Philip Disharoon, special agent in charge of the agency's Alexandria division, said beer must be served in its original container or served immediately to a customer once it is poured from its original container.

"If we're talking about taking a beer and pouring it from a bottle or a keg into some sort of mold and freezing it, then that product is not legal," Disharoon said. He said he planned to send an agent to investigate.

Amber Pfau, a spokeswoman for the restaurant, said last week that the restaurant's beer manager, Greg Engert, was researching ways to ensure that the beer pops comply with Virginia regulations. The products are 100 percent frozen beer; Pfau said they might change the recipe or alter how the pops are served to bring them into compliance.

But Disharoon said he could not envision a way in which beer pops could be legal. Altering the recipe would not make a difference, he said, because the rules are designed to ensure that regulators can track the beer.

"I would have no way of knowing where the beer product came from," he said.

Pfau said the restaurant is confident that the beer pop will survive regulatory scrutiny. Many of the restaurant's menu items are prepared with beer, and its staff members don't see how the beer pop is any different.

"We are still going ahead with the beer pops," she said.

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