Monday, April 20

The Inside Scoop at Ben & Jerry's: Part One

When I received an email inviting me to the Ben & Jerry's headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, I immediately thought it was a joke. A cruel, delicious joke. Thankfully it was not and before I knew it I was packing my bags for Vermont! The Ben & Jerry's folks invited a group of bloggers from across the US to become immersed in all things Ben & Jerry's. It was a delicious, informative and exciting several days! There was A TON of ice cream sampling. Read on for part one of the trip, and stick around for part two this week!

Maple Tree Hugger Ice Cream (Australian Exclusive)

Ben & Jerry's Cookie Core Flavors
New Cookie Core Flavors
Upon my arrival, I drove by the University of Vermont campus which was beautiful! It kind of made me forget it was freezing outside. I know I'm from Chicago, but man, it was cold.

University of Vermont
University of Vermont
University of Vermont
University of Vermont
The cab dropped me off at Hotel Vermont, my home for three days and one of the coolest places I've stayed. I knew I'd love it there when I saw snowshoes in the lobby.

Snowshoes at Hotel Vermont
Snowshoes at Hotel Vermont
There was so much attention to detail in the rooms...it was a hipster's paradise.

Hotel Vermont
Hotel Vermont's Attention to Detail
As if I already didn't feel at home, I was greeted with a gift bag filled with Vermont swag including several locally-made goodies like Citizen Cider, Lake Champlain chocolate, Greyston Bakery brownies (the supplier of Ben & Jerry's brownies), and Vermont maple syrup of course. They even included a Ben & Jerry's Patagonia fleece to keep us cozy, and a can of Alchemist's Heady Topper double IPA.  Heady Topper was rated the #1 beer in the world by Beer Advocate so you better believe I was excited to try it (it was amazing!). Sadly, they don't distribute outside of Vermont, but now I have another reason to return!

Welcome Swag Bag
Welcome Swag Bag
Heady Topper
Heady Topper
I wandered around downtown Burlington and grabbed dinner at a fantastic restaurant, Hen of the Wood, with fellow blogger Gwen, of The LA Girl. Then we called it a night and got some rest before our first day at Ben & Jerry's.

Church Street
Church Street
The next morning our group of 13 bloggers met for breakfast and then headed to Ben & Jerry's headquarters with some of their PR and marketing folks.

Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
The HQ is as fun and colorful as you'd expect from Ben & Jerry's. There's even a twisty slide at the entrance and free ice cream of course. In fact, all employees receive three free pints PER DAY (there's also a gym on site).

Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
HQ Treats
Another bonus? All employees can bring their dogs to work!

Dogs at Ben & Jerry's Headquarters
Spock at Ben & Jerry's HQ
After walking around, we heard from several Ben & Jerry's folks including John Henry from R&D. Ben & Jerry's will be coming out with about 11 new flavors in 2015 (no, there will not be a marijuana-flavored ice cream). We also met Andy Barker who spoke with us about Ben & Jerry's three-part mission including its product, economic and social tiers. Ben & Jerry's is a certified B Corporation (or B corp), meaning they use "the power of business to solve social and environmental problems." Ben & Jerry's became the first wholly-owned subsidiary to gain B Corp certification.

After learning more about the brand, we got to one of the best parts of the trip. Making our own ice cream! The group of food bloggers in attendance were split into four teams, each competing to make the best flavor by taste test vote. The prize? Ice cream every month for a year!

We headed into the flavor lab (the entrance featured the original scoop shop flavor signs) where we met Flavor Gurus, Eric Fredette and Peter Lind. My team included three other bloggers, and we were paired with Eric to help us create our flavor.  

The Original Ben & Jerry's Menu
The Original Menu
The Original Ben & Jerry's Menu
The Original Menu
Ben & Jerry's Flavor Lab
Inside the Flavor Lab
There were so many mix-in options to choose from (sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, etc.), but we weren’t limited to only those. If we could dream it for our flavor, we could have it.

Mix-In Options
Mix-In Options
Mix-In Options
Mix-In Options
Swirl Options
Swirl Options
After brainstorming ideas, our team decided to make a maple vanilla ice cream as a nod to Vermont and the current sapping season. Ben & Jerry’s is known for their plentiful mix-ins so we decided to add a swirl of speculoos (who doesn’t love speculoos?!), crushed Biscoff cookies, and a hint of bourbon, because…bourbon.

Ice Cream Ingredients
Ice Cream Ingredients
Maple Syrup
Measuring the Maple Syrup
We measured our maple syrup and added it along with vanilla extract to our sweet cream ice cream base. After taste testing the base a few times, we decided to add a bit more maple syrup and bourbon to emphasize those flavors. 

Measuring the Sweet Cream Base
Measuring the Sweet Cream Base
Stirring Up Our Base
Stirring Up Our Base
While we were mixing up our flavor, I got to sport the GoPro camera to capture all of that delicious work!

Selfie With The GoPro Camera
Selfie with the GoPro Camera
A last minute addition was a bourbon brown butter, which Eric created and will make its debut in a flavor launch sometime this year.  When a Flavor Guru recommends something, you go with it. The bourbon brown butter added a salty component and more of that bourbon flavor we were going for. We heated up the bourbon brown butter and mixed that into the base along with some bourbon. 

Brown Butter & Bourbon
Our Secret Weapons: Brown Butter & Bourbon
Melting the Brown Butter
Melting the Brown Butter
Adding Brown Butter to Our Base
Adding Brown Butter to Our Base
Stirring Our Base
Stirring Our Base
Once the base was to our liking, we put it into the ice cream maker which turned our base into a soft serve consistency in less than 10 minutes. The ice cream oozed out of the machine into a bowl where we mixed in our crushed Biscoff cookies. We used nearly an entire package of cookies!

Ice Cream Machine
Ice Cream Machine
Biscoff Cookies
Biscoff Cookies
Crushing the Biscoff Cookies
Crushing the Biscoff Cookies
Combining the Base With the Cookies
Combining the Base With the Cookies
Stirring in the Biscoff Cookies
Stirring in the Biscoff Cookies
After combining the frozen base with the cookies, we spooned our ice cream into a piping bag. This next part took some real teamwork. To ensure our speculoos swirl was evenly distributed throughout our ice cream, one person squeezed the swirl, while another squeezed out ice cream base. The result was a delicious masterpiece.  After our flavor was done, it headed into the freezer.

Piping in the Ice Cream & Speculoos Swirl
Piping in the Ice Cream & Speculoos Swirl
The Finished Product!
The Finished Product!

Not only did each team create their own flavor, we also got to work with Janice from the Ben & Jerry’s  design team to create a poster to promote our flavor. We browsed through pages of icons to add to the base poster which featured “Woody,” the Ben & Jerry’s cow designed by artist Woody Jackson. We added a speculoos-covered spoon, a bourbon jug with “Burlington Bourbon Co.” on it, a description of our flavor (maple brown butter ice cream with speculoos cookie bits and swirl, plus a splash of bourbon), as well as our team name, Bourbon Babes. At this point we also had to come up with a name for our flavor which proved difficult. Eventually we went with “OH, SAP!” like “Oh, Snap!” (emphasis on the sass!).

Icons for Our Poster
Icons for Our Poster
Creating a Poster with the Design Team
Creating a Poster with the Design Team
Our Flavor Poster
Team Bourbon Babes
Team Bourbon Babes
The other teams' flavors were:
  • Chili Today, Hot Tamale: cinnamon ice cream with a spicy Mexican chocolate swirl and mini donuts
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondies: peanut butter ice cream with blondies chunks, and a salted caramel peanut butter pecan swirl
  • Samoa Splitz: vanilla ice cream with shredded coconut, dual swirls of caramel and coconut, banana chunks, and cookie pieces

The Four Contending Posters
The Four Contending Posters
The Four Contending Posters
OH, SAP! Our Team's Flavor
So who won the flavor contest? You'll have to come back for part two to find out!

In the meantime, head on over to your local Ben & Jerry's and try their newest ice cream concoction, the BRR-ito. The BRR-ito is "the ultimate solution to satisfy the munchies for ice cream lovers," and is conveniently available today, 4/20.

BRRR-ito
Photo Credit: Ben & Jerry's
For first-timers, Ben & Jerry’s suggests the Half Baked BRRR-ito, with one scoop each of Cookie Dough and Chocolate Fudge Brownie drizzled with chocolate fudge, topped with a crunchy cookie crumble, and rolled to perfection in a chewy crepe-like wrap.  You can also personalize your BRRR-ito by choosing two scoops of any favorite flavor combo.  We had the chance to sample the BRR-ito before it launched and I can tell you it's quite the treat!

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