Sweet Success: Alumni Entrepreneurs Blend Beer and Ice Cream for Perfect Brew
For years, Sam Howland and Bryan Marasco envisioned opening an ice cream shop featuring one-of-a-kind flavors.
The men’s entrepreneurial idea took shape while they were students at Cal Poly Pomona. However, it was the campus’ Bronco Startup Challenge competition that helped birth Scoops on Tap, which offers premium ice cream that is beer infused and made with locally produced craft brews. Flavors include Chocolate Oreo Stout, Salted Caramel Blonde and Midnight Coffee Crunch Ice Cream.
Howland and Marasco grew up together in Claremont. They both attended Citrus College in Glendora and transferred to Cal Poly Pomona. Howland, a 2015 alumnus, pursued a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. Marasco, who graduated in 2016, studied business with a concentration in marketing.
As part of his major, Howland interned at Upland-based Last Name Brewery, then known as Dale Bros. Brewery.
“I started at this brewery and I really loved the brewing industry,” he said. “I thought I was going to be a brewer.”
One day Howland wondered what would happen if he added beer to an ice cream recipe. The friends prepared a vanilla ice cream and added Pomona Queen, a lager brewed by Last Name.
“This ice cream is delicious and it’s unique,” Howland recalled thinking. “Maybe there is something to this concept.”
From then on, the friends experimented with different ice cream and beer formulas.
They met Robert Small, a retired Cal Poly Pomona professor and former dean of The Collins College of Hospitality Management. Small, who established Dr. Bob’s Handcrafted Ice Cream, shared his knowledge and allowed the students to use his manufacturing facility at Fairplex in Pomona.
“We started producing some of the flavors we had been doing at home on a smaller scale,” Howland said.
When they started presenting their product to the public, the reaction was positive.
“People loved it. They loved the concept,” Howland said.
The use of beer is no gimmick. Locally produced brews must complement the final frozen dessert and “take our ice cream to the next level,” he said.
Among the breweries the men work with is Hawthorne-based Common Space Brewery. Common Space produces an IPA with tropical notes that complements an ice cream made with fresh raspberries.
Kushal Hall, head brewer at Common Space, said some people have tried joining beer and ice cream (like into a syrup, for instance) but not the way Howland and Marasco have done.
In the case of Scoops on Tap, “the beer was more of the base,” Hall said. “These guys really used it as a component for great flavor.”
Unlike other ice cream producers, Howland and Marasco understand craft beer brewing, Hall added. When the pair visited Common Space to taste several beers, he observed them discussing the nuances and unique characteristics of each brew along with ideas for new ice cream flavors.
“It’s fun. My beer is their inspiration,” Hall said.
Howland’s and Marasco’s success is tied to the 2016 Bronco Startup Challenge, a Cal Poly Pomona competition meant to foster entrepreneurship among students. Working in teams, students put together a business plan, build a company from scratch and pitch it to a panel of judges.
“The competition forced us to sit down and write all the logistics,” Howland said. “That is something that has benefitted us to this day.”
For their presentation, the men provided ice cream samples and drew favorable comments from the audience, he said.
The proposal earned the friends third place and a $2,000 prize.
“That money went to the purchase of one of the freezers we still own today,” Marasco said.
Howland and Marasco officially launched Scoops on Tap in 2016. Their menu of ice creams has close to 70 varieties, including some made with almond, soy and cashew milks that appeal to vegans.
The friends currently make their ice cream in Upland, have multiple mobile freezers, and sell their product at farmers markets around Southern California, private events and festivals like the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale. They are working to have their products sold through upscale retailers and are preparing to open a brick-and-mortar store in 2019.
Scoops on Tap will be part of the 2018 Cal Poly Pomona Tasting & Auction fundraiser, the third consecutive year the alumni have participated.
The May 6 event allows them to meet other entrepreneurs and “at the same time give back to a school that has given us so much,” Howland said.
There is also a competitive aspect as well. Scoops on Tap has twice taken first place in the event’s People’s Choice Awards dessert category.
“We’re hoping for a three-peat,” Howland said.
Learn more about the Cal Poly Pomona Tasting & Auction at https://tasting.cpp.edu.