I don't know if a stout float is an Irish dessert, but it doesn't really matter, as St. Patrick's Day celebrations aren't really Irish anyway. A beer float can be awesome, and when done right, it's the perfect creamy-sweet refresher after the traditional American-Irish salty dinner of corned beef and cabbage. (Side note: If you boil corned beef until fork-tender, then slather it with a mix of equal parts Dijon mustard and brown sugar and bake it till glazed — it's actually quite tasty.)

I first encountered a beer float at a McMenamins pub in Oregon in the '90s. I must admit, I was slightly horrified as I watched the fair-skinned, stocky patrons switch from pints of ale to pint glasses filled with scoops of industrial vanilla ice cream — with a healthy dousing of stout bubbling over the top as last called neared. But I've since learned that by reducing the scale, and by playing up and off the complex flavors of stout, that frat-boy, beer geek, gut-busting nightcap can be transformed into a damned good, sophisticated dessert.

There are several fine micro-brewed stouts out there, but in honor of St. Patrick and accessibility, this float is concocted with Guinness. Here, bittersweet chocolate syrup made with Guinness and brown sugar accentuate the chocolate and caramel notes in the stout. Malted Vanilla Bean Ice Cream pays tribute to the stout's creamy head and toasty grain flavor, with the aromatic vanilla bean lending a pungent floral contrast. I make ice cream from scratch, but you can make a great malty float by stirring 1/3 cup malted milk powder into a purchased pint of softened vanilla bean ice cream.

This St. Patrick's Day, why not leave the green sugar shamrock cookies to the kids and enjoy something that's real.

making vanilla bean ice cream; Credit: Jeanne Kelley

making vanilla bean ice cream; Credit: Jeanne Kelley

Stout Float with Malted Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Bittersweet Chocolate Stout Syrup

From: Jeanne Kelley

Makes: about 8 servings

Chocolate Stout Syrup (see recipe)

Malted Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (see recipe)

Guinness Stout (about two 11.5-ounce bottles)

1. Spoon about 2 tablespoons syrup into eight 8-ounce glasses. Top syrup with two small scoops of ice cream. Fill the glasses with a small amount of stout and serve.

Malted Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Note: Be careful not to allow the custard to boil, as boiling will cause the eggs to curdle. Look for malted milk powder with the hot cocoa and chocolate milk mixes at the supermarket.

Makes: about 1 quart

2 cups milk

1 cup whipping cream

1 moist, plump vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup malted milk powder

1. Bring milk, cream and vanilla bean just to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.

2. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended in large bowl. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Stir with a silicone spatula over medium-low heat until mixture just thickens to coat the back of the spatula (between 160 and 170ºF on an instant-read thermometer), about 6 minutes. Immediately pour the custard into the large bowl and whisk in the malted milk powder. Cool completely. (Custard can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

3. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Remove the vanilla bean pod. Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze until firm. (The ice cream can be prepared one week ahead.)

Chocolate Stout Syrup:

Makes: about 1 ½ cups

1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Hershey's)

½ cup firmly packed golden brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups stout or one 11.5-ounce bottle

1. Whisk the cocoa, both sugars and salt to blend in a heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in the stout. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly and reduces to about 1 ½ cups, whisking occasionally, about 3 minutes.

(Syrup can me made 4 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Jeanne Kelley is a Los Angeles cook and cookbook author, who also writes at Jeanne Kelley Kitchen. Or follow her on her Tumblr.

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