GRAND RAPIDS — You didn’t have to read Frosty Pints’ displays to know what they were selling. You could just let everyone else do it for you: “Beer ice cream?” “Beer ice cream?!” “Huh, beer ice cream.” “Beer ice cream!”
Yes, Frosty Pints makes beer ice cream. It was enough of a surprise, it seems, that most passersby couldn’t help saying it aloud. That didn’t bother Andy and Laura Pickard, the creators of Frosty Pints. Last Saturday was the couple’s first day vending at the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, and at 10 in the morning — not really the hour for either beer or ice cream — they were happy to be creating a buzz already.
They also had the perfect answer for skeptics: Free samples. Pretty much anyone who made eye contact with Andy got a sample, and at least half of the samplers became paying customers.
Buyers had four flavors to choose from, all non-alcoholic and each infused with a Michigan craft beer: Vanilla Java Porter (from Atwater Vanilla Java Porter), Coffee Stout (Founders Breakfast Stout), Lemon Blueberry Belgian (Brewery Vivant Farmhand and Vander Mill Cider), and Watermelon Lemon Shandy Sorbet (Frankenmuth Double IPA).
These four flavors represented a week of after-hours labor for the Pickards — both hold day jobs in decidedly non-ice cream fields — plus, of course, many months of learning and license applications.
Laura started making ice cream about two years ago. From the beginning, beer was involved: Her first flavor was coffee stout. After that, she says, “I had this epiphany: I could do this with anything.” It became a personal challenge for her to make as many flavors of beer ice cream as she could.
It was Andy, though, who agitated to build a business on that challenge. “I was the one pushing,” he says. “I kept saying, ‘Come on, we could sell this.’”
Now that they are selling it, the division of labor still seems about the same. Laura says they “both do a little of everything,” but she works more on the chemical side of things, creating and refining the recipes, and he seems pretty comfortable on the sales side.
You could hear echoes of that first sales pitch to his wife in Andy’s invitations to customers. “Come try some…come on…it’s never too early for beer ice cream!”
It’s not too late for beer ice cream, either. Frosty Pints will be serving on Saturdays and Thursday evenings at the Downtown Market. Stop by. At the very least, you’ll get two smiles and a sample.