The best part of having family spread out across the country is that we have lots of excuses to take the kidlets to places we otherwise might not go to. Since the Hubs has a married brother in Texas and the weather was getting warmer, it was the perfect excuse to pack up and head down to the Lone Star State. The highlight of our trip, besides all of the quality time spent with Uncle T and Aunt B of course, was our day at the Houston Rodeo & Livestock Show. I’ll be sharing the details of that later this week, but today is all about our tour of the Blue Bell Creameries located in Brenham, TX and the yummy ice cream we saw made, and best of all, got to eat! YUM!
We made our way to Brenham, about an hour by car from Aunt B & Uncle T’s house just outside of Houston. During the drive, the kidlets got to see all sorts of horses, chickens, and of course famous Texas Longhorns roaming the many ranches dotting the beautiful countryside.
We arrived at the Blue Bell Creamery about mid-morning and luckily a tour of the facility was getting ready to start, so we all donned our paper hats to learn all about making ice cream.
Blue Bell Creamery was originally called “The Brenham Creamery Company” and opened for business way back in 1907. Its original business was purchasing excess cream from dairy farmers and churning it into butter to sell to the locals. A few years later, they branched out by making ice cream and delivered cartons to customers by horse and wagon. It was in 1930 that the company changed its name to Blue Bell Creameries after the Texas Bluebell, a pretty wildflower that is native to Texas.
In 1936 Blue Bell Creameries purchased their first refrigerated truck on left, which is still around today, but only for fun pix with the family on right!
Blue Bell Creameries prides itself on still making its ice cream and frozen concoctions the old-fashioned way, paying close attention to detail. They produce more than 250 different frozen products, 66 of which are flavors of ice cream. They also make plenty of other frosty delights, including frozen yogurt, sherbet and various other treats on a stick. The company offers twenty of the ice cream flavors all year round, while an additional three dozen are offered in seasonal rotation. They even have contests where aspiring ice cream mixologists can invent their own flavors that can wind up in a freezer near you!
Since it’s only sold in about 20 states (mostly in the south and mid-west), I had never heard of Blue Bell ice cream before this trip. But its popularity makes it the third best-selling ice cream in the US, behind Breyers and Edy’s/Dreyer’s. We found out on the tour that it is served exclusively at Outback Steak Houses, so you can have a taste of it if you are not in an area that sells it in stores! I was also impressed by the company’s track record. Blue Bell Creameries employ more than 2000 employees at three production plants, with more than 800 working in Brenham and claim they have NEVER, in 105 years, had a layoff of employees! The biggest thing that says to me is that the ice cream industry is recession-proof!
I don’t have any pictures of us on the actual tour, and that’s because we weren’t allowed to take any. I assume it was a combination of not wanting to distract the workers on the factory floor and keep company secrets secret!
The first area we visited was where they made the ice cream sold in gallon and half-gallon containers. The day we visited, they were making two of their company’s best sellers –vanilla and chocolate. The kidlets squealed when they saw the ice cream, pumped through pipes that had turned white with frost, squirted into their cartons and the tops then oh, so gently tapped on. It was also interesting to see how their ice cream sandwiches were made (it was one of those things I always wondered about!). They also bake all the cake and cookies used in their ice cream, so it truly is homemade. I think the thing that really amazes me is how they have to disassemble all the pipes and machines and clean out EVERYTHING every day. It made me glad that all I have to do is stick my dirty dishes in the dishwasher!
We next moved on to where they make their sherbets and their famous fruit-flavor Bullets, which are sort of like a popsicle. It was amazing how automated the whole place was and how many Bullets they could make in an hour, day and week. The machine that actually made the Bullets was at least 20 yards long, and you could see where it inserted the stick in order to hold the tasty treat.
The favorite part of the trip for the kidlets and well, quite frankly, us adults, was the end of the tour when were each able to get our own serving of Blue Bell in their own ice cream parlor. There so many interesting flavors to choose from: Spiced Pumpkin Pecan, Banana Pudding and Strawberry Pound Cake were just a few offered that day. It was so hard to choose just one flavor!
The kidlets opted for pretty basic flavors, chocolate for my son and vanilla for my daughter-both of which were quite tasty and fresh.
The Hubs opted for Coconut Fudge, which was a tasty coconut ice cream with flakes of coconut and a chocolate fudge swirl. Aunt B had Krazy Kookie Dough, which is a hybrid of their Cake Batter ice cream loaded with sugar cookie dough pieces in bright shades of green, blue and pink. Uncle T & I opted for (in an homage to his & the Hubs roots in Colorado) their newest flavor, Rocky Mountain Road, a dark chocolate ice cream with dark chocolate coated peanuts, milk chocolate-coated pecans, white chocolate-coated almonds and roasted walnuts surrounded by a marshmallow sauce swirl. I’d like another cup of it right now!
If you live or are visiting near a Blue Bell Creamery in TX, Alabama or Oklahoma and especially if you have kidlets, I say it’s certainly worth the trip to take the tour and get your serving of yummy ice cream!
Now it’s your turn to share….what’s your favorite brand and flavor of ice cream?
Disclosure – I was not asked or compensated by Blue Bell Creameries to visit their factory, take their tour, eat their ice cream and write about it. I’m just sharing a very yummy and fun part of our recent trip to Texas!
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