by Destiny Dominguez
photography by Destiny Dominguez & George Keeler
Do you remember running after the ice cream truck as a child? Great ice cream was worth chasing. Two men who are icing out the competition for premium ice cream worth pursuing are Sam Howland and Bryan Marasco of Scoops on Tap, a memorable ice cream infused with flavors from local breweries. Although Sam and Bryan are true experts at the scooping game, they are fairly recent in this venture. But their partnership was bonded when they met in first grade and quickly became good friends.
They grew up in Claremont and went through the school system together. Both men attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Sam graduated in 2015 with his degree in hospitality, and Bryan earned his degree in business administration in 2016. “Scoops on Tap was born from the love that Bryan and I have always had for cooking together,” says Sam. “Making ice cream was a passion of mine and because Bryan and I were always hanging out, it became a passion of Bryan’s.”
Sam reminisces on the first Scoops on Tap ice cream that was ever made. While attending college, Sam interned at Upland’s Last Name Brewing, formerly Dale Bros Brewery; he had been making ice cream as a side hobby and wanted to make a big batch for an upcoming event at the brewery. His boss introduced him to Dr. Robert Small, better known as “Dr. Bob,” a professor and dean at Cal Poly Pomona who was known for his excellent handcrafted ice cream. “I became interested in doing some crazy ice creams, and I started taking home beer, and then we figured a vanilla malted ice cream with beer would be really good. So we poured in the beer and our first beer ice cream was born.”
It was quite the match. Sam and Bryan were so impressed by the beer flavors that they decided to make it their own thing. That’s where it all started. “I would take it to these little events at the brewery and sell the ice cream there, and people would just love the ice cream. Bryan and I were going to Cal Poly at the time, and we thought ‘Hey, let’s develop this; we can really turn this into a real thing.’” They supplied their ice cream at events along the way, but Scoops on Tap got its official start July 31, 2015, at a Dale Bros event. That fateful day marked the best friends’ love for ice cream and entrepreneurship.
After making crazy new flavors, such as bacon ice cream and avocado ice cream, the men decided to take part in the Bronco Start-Up challenge. That is when Sam and Bryan really got to work with the infamous Dr. Bob, who helped them understand the processes of manufacturing ice cream and introduced them to his large factory at the Fairplex. “We learned a lot about the ice cream making process, and he shared all the ins and outs of the business, and it was very helpful,” Bryan says.
At the Bronco Startup Challenge, the Scoops On Tap team took home third place, but it was noticeable that they took home first place in consumer response. Many came up to them and applauded their 400+ samples of ice cream served in glass beer mugs. “People just loved it; it was definitely good validation that we were on the right track,” Sam says.
“Quality was what Dr. Bob stood for. He didn’t cut corners. He sourced the best ingredients, and it really showed when you tasted the ice cream. We didn’t want to make run-of-the-mill ice cream,” Sam says. For this reason, Sam and Bryan continue to use the best ingredients they can find. “A large part of what we sell is plant-based or vegan or uses coconut as the base. People love those flavors,” he says. “It’s a challenge to source ingredients; we get our fruit from local vendors and farmers markets. Our cream and milk come from a dairy farm in Chino, and our coconuts come from a vendor in Los Angeles.” They know the exact process to obtain the milk and cream and even have personal relationships with the farmers they work with to ensure the highest quality ingredients.
Sam was always intrigued by ice cream, even at a young age. “Every Fourth of July, my neighbors would hand crank ice cream, and I was just amazed. I had never experienced ice cream like that. One year, I got a cook book by a guy named David Lebowitz, and it was called ‘The Perfect Scoop.’ This book is my biggest inspiration for ice cream.” Bryan adds, “Ice cream is such a fun thing because there is so much variety and so many different things you can do with it. It is such a versatile dessert. You have creme brûlée, and usually it’s the same thing every time, you know? But something like ice cream, you can do so many interesting things—like our beer infused ice cream.”
Scoops on Tap has pursued many interesting ventures, including partnering with breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants to make individual specialty ice creams. With every new partnership they also ensure the most premium ice cream possible. “We are currently working with 40 different breweries across Southern California. It’s a lot of work, but someone has to do it,” Sam jokes.
With every new partnership they also ensure the most premium ice cream possible. People always ask Sam and Bryan what is premium, and what they say is definitely a premium response, “People asking what is super premium means a lot to Bryan and me. It is how we make the ice cream. Bryan and I make every ice cream ourselves. We say handcrafted because we are physically making that ice cream everyday, and it’s the quality of the ingredients; it’s where the ingredients come from.”
It is because of this quality that Scoops on Tap has such a loyal fanbase. At the weekly farmer’s market in Pasadena, Sam and Bryan let their weekly customers try new flavors. They love to connect with their customers, especially on social media. They run a monthly flavor contest where fans can submit an idea for a
flavor they want Sam and Bryan to concoct. One of Sam’s favorite fan flavors is gingerbread. Sam and Bryan made it with fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of clove. “It tastes just like a gingerbread cookie!” Sam exclaims.
As their following has grown, so has their business. Scoops on Tap used to be produced at Dr. Bob’s facility at the LA County Fairgrounds, but they have since moved to a small facility in Upland and are working toward opening up a storefront shop. “We love doing mobile events to share our brand and product, but we want to open up a place we can call home in the process,” Sam says.
“We have really seen our sales grow exponentially over the past three years.” Both men were working full time when they started Scoops on Tap. Sam at the Dale Bros Brewery, and Bryan in the water filtration industry. “We left our jobs to dedicate our time to Scoops on Tap. We had to make that decision. We love entrepreneurship.”
The chemistry the pair hold makes it seem as though they know exactly what the other is thinking. They even finish each other’s sentences. While Sam talks about his passions, Bryan smiles and occasionally interjects, reminiscing about the memories of them being old roommates while living in Covina, California. “Bryan and I love music. Bryan is an excellent guitar player, and I found an interesting passion in lighting. I set up the DJ lighting and lasers, and we would jam together. We do that less so now, though, because we are busy with the business almost 24/7, with a little time to sleep,” Sam laughs. “We’re pretty good food guys; in our spare time we like to cook.”
They also keep each other inspired, including rituals they have for the Los Angeles County Fair, which they will return to this year. “For the fair, we had a good ritual. At Sprouts, we’d get four sandwiches, one for lunch and one for dinner. Same sandwich everyday. Turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, no cheese; it’s too expensive. And we did that same meal almost everyday.”