When I was little and my family would sit around the table at dinner time, my dad would have us all engaged in a competition for ice cream dessert. Although everyone always got ice cream, we competed fiercely for Dad’s approving nod as to which of us came closest to matching the pitch, tone and rhythm of the Blue Bell ice cream commercial. You know, the classic one that goes…Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country. We usually all had to take several runs at it before we could enjoy our Blue Bell ice cream.
My dad is a really good singer and no one could ever quite match his tone but it was fun to try and even more fun to anticipate eating our ice cream. In the end, like most of the games we played, my parents found a way to make winners of all of us.
Driving home from our Spring Break in Lost Pines (near Austin) my husband and I took our two small children on a little detour to go to Brenham to tour the Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory. I love educational family field trips and this was one that everyone was very happy about!
Exploring my home state is forever an adventure. Texas is so big that there is always a hidden jewel somewhere. The Blue Bell Ice Cream factory in Brenham is one of those precious jewels. On the way to Brenham I was singing…You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream! and Ice ice baby, Vanilla ice ice baby…
The ice cream making process at Blue Bell is satisfying to watch like lawn mowing, a car wash, or shoe polishing. It is mesmerizing to watch the cartons spin and see the ice cream so carefully poured in.
When we were there on a Wednesday afternoon, the little creamery was making three flavors: Banana Split, Homemade Vanilla, and Strawberry. We also watched them make ice cream sandwiches that day.
Our tour guide, Abby, told us many interesting facts. She asked us if we knew which color rim of ice cream cost more- the brown or the gold. Of course, we all would assume gold, but it’s the brown because the ice cream with a brown rim has more nuts, fruit, or fluff inside. She also asked us if we ever have a hard time taking off the lid, which everyone on the tour said yes too. Abby said it was because they flip the cartons upside-down and that causes an airtight seal.
Abby said there was a woman who wrote a letter to Blue Bell to ask them to make her favorite ice cream that they stopped making and because of the letter, they brought it back. This reminds me of my husband’s favorite flavor, Carmel Sunday Crunch! He was obsessed with it and would buy multiple cartons at a time. It was a staple in our freezer. When he found out that Blue Bell brings flavors back, this made him very happy!
When Abby told us that they disassemble all the pipes and machines every day to clean them, my jaw dropped. She said it takes about four hours to clean. The Blue Bell employees’ have that down-home dedication that that starts with personal pride, results in company pride, and culminates in community pride. You can see it all over the small town of Brenham.
One of the most respected companies in the region and the country, Blue Bell started out making butter in 1907 because its original business was purchasing excess cream from dairy farmers. Later, as they branched out by making ice cream; delivery boys would hitch up a horse and buggy and rush the ice cream to nearby families where they ate quickly, before it melted. In 1930, the company changed its name to Blue Bell Creameries (named after the Texas Bluebell wildflower that blooms during the hot summer months).
Blue Bell is the third best selling ice cream (behind Dreyer’s and Breyers) even though it’s sold in only twenty states. They employ more than 2000 employees’ at all three plants:
- Brenham, Texas
- Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
- Sylacauga, Alabama
The very best part of the tour was ending at the ice cream parlor to get our own serving of Blue Bell. Picking between twenty flavors, both my children couldn’t wait to try Cotton Candy (a blue and pink candy cloud that tastes just like cotton candy). My husband and I enjoyed the new Rocky Mountain Road (like Rocky Road on steroids)! It’s a rich, dark chocolate ice cream combined with dark chocolate-coated peanuts, milk chocolate-coated pecans, white chocolate-coated almonds, and roasted walnuts, all surrounded by a flavorful marshmallow sauce swirl…one taste and you’re hooked!
I read Judy Blume’s Superfudge every year to my second graders and always laugh when three-year old Fudge Hatcher suggests Baskin Robbins makes “worm ice cream” for an ice cream flavor contest suggestion. Blue Bell does have contests where future ice cream mixologists can enter their own flavor and hope it wins. What suggestion would you give to Blue Bell?
March Rotational Flavors:
Cake and Ice Cream
Caramel Turtle Fudge
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Chocolate Mud Pie
Mocha Almond Fudge
Rocky Mountain Road
Strawberry Banana Pound Cake