Ben & Jerry’s Trip: The Ice Cream Factory
While I may not make my living writing about food, I’ve still managed to experience some cool perks. Back in April I attended a blogger event hosted by the nice people from the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream company. Getting a chance to tour the factory in Waterbury, Vermont and having an inside look at the South Burlington headquarters is a food blogger’s dream come true. So joined up with a dozen or so other writers, I was able to visit the “Green Mountain State” of Vermont and enter a world of peace, love and ice cream.
The event kicked off with a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory in Waterbury, VT. Basically nestled among back roads and surrounded by mountains, the ice cream factory is like an oasis in the desert. Doubling as a production plant and a popular tourist spot, the Waterbury location is like the mecca of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. On the grounds of the property you’ll find many indications that you are in the land of Ben & Jerry. Humorous signs, B&J inspired painted buildings and doors and even a bus. We’re dealing with a company here that makes it obvious that they like to have fun. Upon entering the building, you’ll notice things such as a display of ice cream scoops that date back to the 1800’s. Lessons in the company’s history can be found at almost every turn as you enter into the lobby area… which features a gift shop. After gazing upon the walls of memorabilia and history lessons, we start our tour.
I got almost a fun house-type atmosphere from the first step into the tour. Immediately greeted by steps leading upstairs, walls are painted with cows and ice cream. A recording of cows mooing can be heard and I start to wonder if this is what a Chick-fil-A tour might be like. One of our first stops is into a small movie theater to watch a short documentary on the history of the company. In a nutshell, friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield had ideas involving bagels and other ideas involving ice cream. They obviously made the right move with ice cream. They took a $5 course on ice cream making at Penn State in 1977 and opened an ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont in 1978. The first Ben & Jerry’s shop was actually a remodeled and renovated gas station. So the idea was to bring quality ice cream to customers and at the same time, take on social mission with the community and eventually the world (we’ll get to that in a later post).
So… after the moooo-vie (yeah the tour guide John made us say it like that) …we enter a hallway with walls covered with signs that said “Don’t Peak”. Moments later a button is pressed somewhere and the walls open up to windows showing factory workers down on the line. Pints of ice cream travelling on conveyor belts and all sorts of “ice cream machinery”. Station after station of the ice cream making process taking place before our eyes. I couldn’t quite grasp what I was really looking at, all I knew was there were a bunch of workers making magic. We are given details on the process, but I’m too busy staring at giant barrels of ice cream ingredients to take it all in.
After being thoroughly teased with the Ben & Jerry’s world, we are then led down some more stairs and enter the FlavoRoom. Here we were able to get some delicious samples of one of the latest additions at Ben & Jerry’s, Milk & Cookies. I can see this being a favorite of many: Vanilla Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl, Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Following the FlavoRoom we are taken into yet another room where there are no more teases. Pint after pint of the latest flavors come out for our waiting spoons. The six new flavors for 2010 are Boston Cream Pie, Dulce Delish, Maple Blondie, Milk & Cookies, Mud Pie and Peanut Brittle.
- Boston Cream Pie: Boston Cream Pie ice cream with Yellow Cake Pieces, Fudge Flakes and Swirls of Pastry Cream
- Dulce Delish: Rich Caramel Ice Cream with Dark Caramel Swirls
- Maple Blondie: Maple Ice Cream with Blonde Brownie Chunks & a Maple Caramel Swirl
- Milk & Cookies: Vanilla Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl, Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Mud Pie: Chocolate & Coffee Liqueur Ice Creams Swirled Together with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl
- Peanut Brittle: Peanut Brittle Ice Cream with Peanut Brittle Pieces & a Caramel Swirl
I’d have to say my two favorites of the new 2010 flavors are Maple Blondie and Milk & Cookies. Of the current batch of flavors, my current #1 would have to be Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream…Vanilla Ice Cream with Fudge Covered Waffle Cone Pieces & a Caramel Swirl…it’s amazing. While downing ice cream, we are visited by members of the Quality Assurance team. We are given a demonstration of this pint-splitting machine. It’s literally a machine that splits a pint of ice cream and then can be analyzed for any possible issues. This ice cream auditing process seems like one of the best jobs in the building. We all get a chance to sample what ice cream fresh “off the line” is like. This stuff is great. Having a chance to taste ice cream that was made within hours is a real treat.
After the pints and pints of ice cream, our tour experience came to a close with a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard.