And for Dessert, Suds on a Stick

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By Greg Kitsock
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 4, 2007

If the Good Humor man had moonlighted as a bartender, he might have invented the Hopsicle.

But he didn't, and so credit goes to Frank Morales, executive chef at Rustico Restaurant and Bar in Alexandria. Rustico stocks about 280 brands of beer, and since taking over the kitchen in February, Morales has been happily incorporating them into his cuisine.

A mental lapse -- he left a bottle of beer in the freezer for three hours and it froze rock-hard -- led him to experiment with beer on a stick.

Rustico is offering its Hopsicles in plum, cherry, raspberry, banana and grape flavors. As a base, Morales uses Belgian fruit beers that are low in alcohol and minimally hopped.

He whisks the beer thoroughly to drive off carbonation, adds chopped-up fruit and two "secret ingredients," then heats the mixture to a boil. Once it's cooled, he pours it into molds shaped like a cylinder, a cone, a star and a rocket ship.

The Hopsicles have a slightly slushy texture and an intense fruitiness, with the beer adding extra layers of flavors. The banana pop has a dry, biscuity maltiness in the finish, as well as a faint hop bitterness. The plum displays some of the earthy flavor typical of Belgian lambics, beers that are exposed to the atmosphere and fermented spontaneously.

Not available when I stopped by was Morales's Stoutsicle, made with Young's Double Chocolate Stout, a British import flavored with crumbled-up Cadbury bars.

Rustico's Hopsicles earned the restaurant the quirky-item-of-the-day slot on the evening news, especially once he attracted the attention of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, but Morales has plenty of company when it comes to flavoring frozen desserts with beer. Google "beer" and "ice cream," and you'll come up with dozens of recipes.

Stout, a dark ale made from roasted grains that mimic bittersweet chocolate and coffee flavors, seems to be the preferred beer style. In her "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" (Knopf, 2005), Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin includes a recipe for a Guinness ice cream flavored with molasses and vanilla extract. The Food Network Web site features an Emeril Lagasse formula for Guinness Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate-Honey Sauce. Last year, Ben & Jerry's released Black & Tan, a blend of "cream stout" ice cream (they don't say what brand) with chocolate swirls.

New York chef David Burke, working with the Sam Adams folks, recently released two recipes for "adult milk shakes" incorporating Samuel Adams Cream Stout and Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat.

Some diners might cringe at the thought of combining a children's treat with beer, but reducing the beer will often boil away most of the alcohol. An employee of York Castle Tropical Ice Cream in Silver Spring, which markets a Guinness-flavored ice cream, says there is "not enough to warrant carding anyone."

Susan Meyer, sous-chef at the Irish Inn at Glen Echo, doesn't recommend her Guinness Coffee Ice Cream for kids -- because of the caffeine from a coffee extract that's "sort of like espresso that's been made 10 times as strong."

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