COVINA, Calif. — Several years ago, Sam Howland was reading an ice cream cookbook when an interesting recipe caught his eye.
The recipe was for a chocolate Guinness stout ice cream — two things Howland loved into one.
Howland, who at the time was working as a craft beer brewer, made that recipe.
Delicious, he said.
And then, he tried one of his creations. He poured an amber lager into a batch of vanilla ice cream with malt balls.
The tasty result was Howland's "Eureka moment."
"I remember thinking, there's something to this," Howland said.
Howland and business partner Bryan Marasco launched an ice cream truck mobile business in 2015, Scoops on Tap, introducing their spirit-infused ice cream concept at Farmer’s markets, pop-ups, festivals and craft breweries across Southern California.
And after much trial and error, failures, awards and a loyal cult following, the two long-time friends and college roommates opened their first brick-and-mortar ice cream shop earlier this month that marries the two things they love most: beer/spirit and ice cream.
Howland and Marasco held a grand opening for Scoops on Tap in downtown Covina and a ribbon cutting Thursday, and the new ice cream shop gives the old fashion ice cream a new look and adult flavor.
"There's this perception that ice cream is only for kids and families, but we've always felt like ice cream should be for everyone," Howland said.
On National Ice Cream Day, Sunday, the store will offer discounts on their ice creams and will give out free giveaways and gift cards.
The 800-square-foot ice cream shop with a 250-square-foot patio at 491 North Citrus Ave. features ice cream flavors from traditional flavors like strawberries and cream and chocolate cookie dough to those with a touch of spirit.
There is the chocolate cookies and cream stout ice cream — a Dutch dark chocolate ice cream with fudge swirl, chunks of Oreos and infused with a chocolate stout.
The Paisley Cave Complex has toasted marshmallows, ice cream blueberry swirl, cocoa nibs and infused with a marshmallow blueberry beer.
The craft beers used in the infused ice cream recipe come from Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim, Howland said.
Something visitors rarely see at other ice cream shops, Scoops on Tap has a 21-and-over beer and wine bar and staff can recommend pairings of particular ice creams with a beer or wine.
Howland recommends pairing a Sauvignon blanc with strawberry and cream ice cream.
The store also serves wine-infused slushies like the Frosé lemonade, a California Rosé blended with fresh lemonade and frozen as a slushie. And any of their ice creams can be made as a craft beer float.
Howland said Scoops on Tap ice cream is for everyone. Their spirit-infused ice creams are classified as non-alcoholic since they only use a small amount of craft beer in the recipe.
"It's just enough for the flavor," Howland said.
Aside from their spirit-infused ice cream, Scoops on Tap is known for its vegan plant-based offerings and Keto, low-sugar ice cream.
The vegan ice cream has a coconut base, and "it's just as creamy as regular ice cream," Howland said. "The Keto menu is sugar-free, high fat, and low carb."
The opening of Scoops on Tap coincides with the revival of downtown Covina. Several city council members were on hand during the ribbon cutting Thursday and reflected on how the area is changing.
"A few years ago, it was very quiet. There were a lot of empty storefronts," said John King, a 50-year Covina resident and city council member. "Now, we are seeing businesses come back. Downtown is becoming more vibrant. It's walkable, a wonderful hometown feeling downtown because of these types of businesses coming in like Scoops on Tap, Dot & Dough and others."
For Howland and Marasco, who both attended Cal Poly Pomona, in some ways, the opening of this store was a homecoming. Howland and his business partner, Marasco, lived in Covina while attending Cal Poly, about a 10-minute drive.
"When we were looking at places, it was important for us to be part of the community," Howland said. "We wanted to be the local ice cream shop, and with the reinvigoration of downtown Covina, there's no better place than here."