I’m of the opinion that everything is delicious until you try it, unless of course the ingredients themselves are inherently gross. There’s no reason why vegemite on crumpets or pikelets won’t be fantastic, nor chocolate covered pretzels – just see how good Americans are at combining salty/sweet things. As we all know beer goes great with food either as an accompaniment or an ingredient, so I’m not here to talk about something as mundane as beer battered fish or Guinness and beef pie. If memory serves me right, sensing that children weren’t developing Type-2 diabetes quickly enough someone decided it would be a good idea to introduce ice cream to Coke, changing EVERYTHING. I’m not sure when it happened, but an idea popped in my head that could not be banished.
Beer Spider. Oh yes.
I certainly did not come up with this idea and indeed I sought inspiration and advice on how not to turn this already abomination into a heinous crime against humanity. The basic idea is to use dark, full-flavoured stouts or porters – brewed with chocolate for extra effect – which have the closest resemblance to your favourite cola drink, and the more alcohol the merrier. They typically have a thick foamy head and their richness of flavour can break through the milkiness of ice-cream. The ice-cream used in these experiments was Coles Madagascan Vanilla Bean and Coles Rum Raisin, because that particular supermarket was closest I guess?
The first sacrifice in the name of dessert and science (sure, why not) was the Renaissance Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, a fantastic beer by its own right. Velvety, nutty and rich, it fits the prerequisites for a beer spider and my ideal wife. After a luxurious dinner made by Eats Meets West and a triply luxurious grasshopper pie we decided to take the plunge with the beer spider. Big mistake. There are few things richer or more bloat-worthy than a beer spider. I used the vanilla ice-cream for this one and when poured it develops that characteristic weird bubbly foam tradition spiders make. The taste? Raise an eyebrow, look up a little bit and purse your lips while saying “not bad” in a surprised way – this will be your reaction. The beer’s texture becomes creamier and the bitterness is cut way back, but the ice-cream doesn’t overpower the experience. It is great to spoon out as you go though. Needless to say I felt incredibly sick afterwards.
The best stout of the lot came next (on another day because I like being alive) in the form of Anderson Valley’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout with the vanilla ice-cream. Here’s where I noticed a downside to the spider (I know I was shocked too): it robs the beer of complexity and makes it a bit beige. Once again this beer spider was creamy and incredibly rich, perhaps slightly better than the Renaissance stout, but there really isn’t much else more to say about it. Great beer though, on its own the stout has this great chocolate quality that does amazing things to your tongue. Let’s leave it there before things get awkward.
Lastly was the Founders Brewing Breakfast Stout (Double Chocolate, Coffee, Oatmeal Stout), yet another amazing beer that I sullied with ice-cream. Rum Raisin was the nominated ice-cream this time around, a fairly mediocre one at that, but for some reason it still worked. The Rum Raisin is slightly sweeter than the vanilla, which added a little something extra to the flavour. Again, the stout’s flavour was subdued but the sweetness of the ice-cream made a nice counterpoint to the beer’s bitterness. I’m not saying you should, but you totally should have this for breakfast.
All in all this was a fun experiment, and against all odd I’m still alive. Beer spiders are not as silly as they sound, nor as awful, and I believe truly deserve a spot on the menu of some bespoke bar that serves beers in paper bags and cocktail in jam jars.