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New York state legislature approves bill to make beer ice cream without liquor license

Beer ice cream from Gilligan's in Sherburne, New

Beer ice cream from Gilligan's in Sherburne, New York, is now available thanks to recent legislation. Credit: Andy Lagoe

This summer kicked off with ketchup ice cream (served over fries, at Krisch’s Restaurant in Massapequa) and it may end with a cup of the frozen stuff flavored with stout, pale ale or IPA.

In June, State Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) and Assemb. William Magee (D-Nelson) — both of whom represent the heart of New York dairy country — co-sponsored a bill to allow the sale of ice cream made with beer or hard cider without a liquor license. It passed in June, welcome news for the upstate ice-cream maker who had pushed for its passage and, likely, a slew of ice-cream makers, breweries and restaurants who will follow.

"We had long sought to make beer and cider ice cream, but we found out early on in the process we couldn’t do it without a liquor license," said Andy Lagoe, co-owner (with his brother, Mike) of Gilligan’s in Sherburne, New York, which has made ice cream since 1996. Gilligan’s already turned out wine ice cream (that's been legal in the state since 2008) but was stymied in its quest to fuse beer from local breweries with cream — not only by the law but by tricky chemistry.

“When I first made [beer ice cream], I thought, this isn’t so bad. But it took some tweaks to get it right,” Lagoe said. Beer doesn’t evaporate during the process, so the added moisture content can throw off the consistency of ice cream, which is typically made with just eggs, cream, sugar and flavorings.

Lagoe teamed up with the brewing program at SUNY-Morrisville in Morrisville, New York, to puzzle out the process. While Lagoe is mum on the final proportions, Gilligan’s is now turning out three flavors — regular beer, coffee beer and chocolate beer — made in part with a “dark, strong ale” from Copper Turret Restaurant & Brewhouse, also in Morrisville. None are more than 5 percent alcohol, as per the new law, and they cannot be sold to anyone younger than 21. 

“It is going crazy fast,” Lagoe said, and the Lagoes are busy building a facility to expand production and distribution. He foresees being able to soon distribute to places such as Long Island by packing the ice cream with dry ice.

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