It’s made down at what they call the “little creamery in Brenham.” But that’s the biggest understatement of the year. It’s a huge factory. And now, I understand, they have factories in other states too. But they retain that small town sense of being from Brenham…in their ads, their marketing, and in their company ethos.
During the past two decades, Bluebell has moved from a treat known only to us here in Texas, to a delicacy craved the nation wide. In fact, Bluebell’s success is all the more astounding when you stop and really look at it. Because, while it has become the third most popular ice cream in nationwide sales (Behind Breyer’s and Dreyer’s), it’s sold in just sixteen states! (here’s the map)
The New York Times ran one of the best stories on Bluebell back in May. It’s by RW Apple, and you can read it at the Bluebell website here. It’s really quite fun to read how this writer from the big city swoons over his factory tour in rural Texas.
Apple writes that his favorite Bluebell flavor is Buttered Pecan:
“I’d never tasted anything like it, nor had Betsey — packed with roasted, lightly salted Texas pecan halves. (The pecan, as Ed Kruse was quick to remind me, is the Texas state tree.) Rich. Mellow. Salt and sugar playing Ping-Pong in my mouth. I could easily down a pint at a single sitting. Just give me a spoon (no dish required) and stand back, kid.”
Here are some of the other things he says:
“….Blue Bell is not all hat and no cattle, as they say of some things and some people in Texas. With clean, vibrant flavors and a rich, luxuriant consistency achieved despite a butterfat content a little lower than some competitors, it hooks you from the first spoonful. Entirely and blessedly absent are the cloying sweetness, chalky texture and oily, gummy aftertaste that afflict many mass-manufactured ice creams.
I wouldn’t (quite) claim to remember every bite of ice cream that I’ve eaten since my first tastes of peppermint stick at Mary Coyle’s and banana at Isaly’s in Akron, Ohio, around 1940. But I can recall no American commercial ice cream in a league with Blue Bell except the remarkable Graeter’s, which is made in Cincinnati and sold only there and in a few nearby cities.”
Bluebell didn’t invent “Cookies and Cream,” but they pretty much perfected it, striking a deal with Nabisco to use the popular Oreos brand for many years, becoming the first ones to market it on a large scale, and creating what is now their second most popular blend. (Homemade Vanilla is number one…)
Bluebell has seventeen year-round flavors, and about 35 others that get rotated through, depending upon what kind of things are in season, and what will fit in a grocers shelves. Here’s a complete list of their flavors.
Speaking of getting it, you can get it shipped to you, if you want. Bluebell ships the stuff all over the country, to those who are still deprived of being able to run down to the store and pick some up. Interested? Go here.
When we were at Dennise’s high school reunion back in July, we sat at the picnic with the husband of one of her high school friends. This guy had spent a lot of time in the Air Force. And, for a time, he was stationed at one side of the country, and would fly back to other side for meetings; often stopping for a connecting flight at DFW.
He told us how his in-laws would often meet him at the airport with a couple of pints of Bluebell, and during twenty minutes on the ground, he’d chat briefly with them, and scarf down Pistachio, or Banana Pudding.
If that sounds extreme and fanatical, then I’m going to assume you haven’t had Bluebell yet.
And if you have, then I’m going to assume it’s just one more thing you like about Texas.