Blue Bell Ice Cream, a tastier part of Texas history


My first visit to Texas in the early 1980s, to visit friends in Houston and in-laws in Dallas, I met Blue Bell Ice Cream. It was love at first bite, of course.

Bluebell Creamery's ad, barn and blue sky

Blue Bell Creamery ad, barn and blue sky, and their memorable slogan

Ice cream plays an important role in my family. Family reunions, or just any celebration in summer, were excuses to pull out several hand-cranked ice cream makers, and freeze away. Homemade vanilla delights the palate, and family gourmands grind vanilla beans to add a little extra oomph. When grandfather Leo Stewart had peaches from his orchard, or later just peaches from our backyard tree in Pleasant Grove, Utah, fresh peaches went into the mix. Only someone who experienced my father’s peaches in my mother’s custard, frozen in a hand-cranked freezer, could fully appreciate Willie Stark‘s lines about peach ice cream in Robert Penn Warren’s book, All the King’s Men.

White Mountain 6-quart hand crank ice cream freezer

White Mountain 6-quart hand crank ice cream freezer, one of the better freezers

Homemade ice cream is a bother. Better freezers are not cheap, and they don’t travel well. My mother’s mini-freezer disappeared sometime in one of her later-life moves. My father’s much larger, two-gallon colossus simply wore out, with most of the ferrous metal parts rusting away, and even the wood of the barrel crumbling to dust. Proper salt to get the solution colder than freezing is sporadically available in city supermarkets. My mother’s recipe for the custard, unwritten as all her better recipes, died with her.

Bluebell Peaches and Homemade Vanilla

Bluebell Peaches and Homemade Vanilla

Utah is a haven for ice cream makers. Snelgrove’s on 33rd South in Salt Lake City is tradition in many families (Snelgrove is now owned by Dreyer’s, but still operates as Snelgrove in Utah) (Update, July 2008: Snelgrove’s is dead). My wife’s family is partial to Farr’s in Ogden, “Farr better ice cream” — and it is very, very good. Trips to visit family include stops at Farr’s.

Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla tastes like my mother’s custard frozen in a hand-cranked freezer. It is consistently the best-tasting ice cream, for a very reasonable price.

Blue Bell celebrates its 100th anniversary as a company in 2007, the “little creamery” in Brenham, Texas, where Blue Bell is made.

Even better, the company wants you to suggest new flavors, and is holding a contest to get good, local flavors. Winners of the Taste of the Country Flavor Contest get a trip to Brenham for the 100th anniversary celebration.

Plus, winners get a year’s supply of Blue Bell ice cream.

Blue Bell is a nice local company making good. Though the production is limited (and I believe it is still true that all the ice cream is made in Brenham), so it is available only in 17 states concentrated in the southeast, the brand is the third best-selling brand in the U.S.

If you’re near Houston, you would be well advised to make a side trip to Brenham to tour the Blue Bell ice cream factory (plus, the bluebonnets will be in bloom shortly).

North America is a big continent, with international brands that work for international consistency of products, so that the company’s customers get the same experience regardless where the customers are — think McDonalds, Burger King, and Coca-Cola. Large conglomerates often own even nominally regional brands. As I noted earlier, Snelgrove’s in Salt Lake City is now run by a national ice cream giant — even Ben & Jerry’s brand is now owned, produced and marketed by a national marketing giant. Blue Bell is a standout, an almost-local brand, with limited distribution. Part of the joy of a well-working free enterprise system is finding a well-run local company, with a unique product.

Blue Bell could make a fortune bottling their success formula, too, in addition to their ice cream.

Bluebell logo

Glen Dromgoole at the Abilene Reporter-News reviewed the book about Blue Bell’s history in his column February 18, 2007, “Blue Bell Ice Cream, a Texas Staple, Turns 100.”

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25 Responses to Blue Bell Ice Cream, a tastier part of Texas history

  1. […] So, put some barbecue in the smoker, get a Shiner for you and your pet armadillo, sit back and enjoy the holiday.  If you’re near Washington-on-the-Brazos, go to the ceremony.  You’d better be sure you’ve got plenty of Blue Bell Ice Cream. […]

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  2. Ed Darrell says:

    In Ogden, Farr’s “Farr Better Ice Cream” still rules. In Salt Lake City? Snelgrove’s died, but that wasn’t anywhere near as good as Bluebell. I honestly don’t know whether Valora’s still exists (about 21st South and 15th East, as I recall). In Logan, Utah State University used to have a dairy sale store along with their dairy operations.

    Bluebell? Bluebell doesn’t ship to Utah. Alas.

    Good luck!

    (Sushi? You’re better off in Utah — Takashi’s, downtown.)

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  3. ny says:

    I’m living in Utah for college, but was born and raised in Houston. Where can I get bluebell- a taste of home here in Utah?!

    Like this

  4. [...] scrubbed (comments) Texas Independence D… on Blue Bell Ice Cream, a tastier…Ed Darrell on Texas Independence Day, March…Texas Independence D… on San Jacinto Day [...]

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  5. [...] So, put some barbecue in the smoker, get a glass of iced tea for you and your pet armadillo, sit back and enjoy the holiday. If you’re near Washington-on-the-Brazos, go to the ceremony.  Make sure you’re not out of Blue Bell Ice Cream. [...]

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  6. Jim Fung says:

    Stumbled upon this when I was just searching Google for more information to read about Blue Bell, which I agree is delicious! They have four factories, two in Brenham, but also two others in Oklahoma and Alabama.

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  7. marissa says:

    iam doing a research about ice cream in my english class. this helped a bunch.thank you!

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  8. thanks for making your website avelible am call PASTOR FIDELIS from Cameroon i am pastor in christ life ministry buea sir i discover that without study ministry will not grow sir i want to further my study i want to do my bachelor degree so if you can help me scholarship for me to study in your school i will be grateful sir i need your help in my ministry here in Cameroon pl you people shell come and partner my ministry if you can approve my petitions then pl reply me balk THANKS

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  9. Ed Darrell says:

    I always thought living in Miami might damage one’s faculties. Above is hard evidence it damages one’s sense of taste.

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  10. MIKE IN MIAMI FL says:

    I JUST TRIED BLUEBELL ICE CREAM FOR THE FIRST TIME AND I JUST DON’T GET IT. THIS WAS THE WORST ICE CREAM I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE BAR NONE. IT TASTES MORE LIKE A BAD ICE MILK THAN ANY ICE CREAM. THIS STUFF IS THE WORST I AM TAKING THIS CRAP BACK TO PUBLIX AND ASKING FOR MY MONEY BACK.

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  11. MIKE IN MIAMI FL says:

    I JUST TRIED BLUEBELL ICECREAM FOR THE FIRST TIME AND I JUST DON’T GET IT THIS WAS THE WORST ICE CREAM I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE BAR NONE IT TASTES MORE LIKE A BAD ICE MILK THAN ANY ICE CREAM THIS STUFF IS THE WORST I AM TAKING THIS CRAP BACK TOM PUBLIX AND ASKING FOR MY MOEY BACK.

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  12. Jo Whitt says:

    Our WalMart in Knoxville, TN no longer is carrying 1/2 gallen ice creams in Blue Bell. Why???

    Like this

  13. Ed Darrell says:

    Just back from Utah: Snelgrove’s is dead. Gone. The Dreyer’s buyout seemed to doom it.

    Farr’s Far Better Ice Cream in Ogden is still cool.

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  14. Woo hoo! BB’s Peaches and Homemade Vanilla for 2008 has just landed in the stores! LOVE this stuff!

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  15. amelia says:

    in ozona fl., near palm harbor- sells homemade chocolates and— sixteen flovors of bluebell soon to add more. they are in a quant little fishing village and outsell any other parlor far and near that has much more exposure due to their outstanding attitude of selling bluebell . the community likes their presents and come from all over to taste.

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  16. TheDeeZone says:

    Ed,

    I hate to admit it but there is a local place here that actually makes better ice cream than Blue Bell. It is made in small quantities and sold in their ice cream store.

    Mark,

    I can relate. We get Blue Bell in G-ville. However we have a hard time finding Banana Pudding. We have been told it was a limited edition ice cream or seasonal. Yeah right.

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  17. Mark says:

    I moved from Texas to Florida in ’89. I missed so many things but especially the Blue Bell. When I was about to get married in 2000, I heard that Blue Bell had made it into Pensacola. I talked my soon to be bride to have our Honeymoon there, so that I could get some ice cream (shameful, I know). I brought back a cooler with about 5 tubs for my family. Thank God they have now made it to Orlando. Now if only I could stop rubbing it in to my brother who lives in Virgina :) . . .

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  18. Ed Darrell says:

    Sharron,

    If President Bush made those remarks, they should be available from the White House’s website, http://www.whitehouse.gov. Do you have a date or a location for the speech? I cannot find it, searching for “ice cream,” at least, not in the last month or so.

    Here are the remarks President Bush made when he signed the No Child Left Behind Act. I don’t see the words “ice cream” in there.

    Do you know any more details about the speech? If so, you can probably find it at the White House site; if you have more details, please share — now I’m curious.

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  19. Sharron says:

    The President gave a speech on how ice cream products that do not meet standards are thrown away whereas schools cannot do that when students fail to meet standards. May I have a copy of that speech to read for a presentation. Thanks

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  20. Jennifer Jensen says:

    FYI-The famous Snelgrove’s Ice Cream Parlor you are talking about is located on 21st South-NOT 33rd! I worked there for many years! When I come down to Texas, I would love to check out another ice cream legend!

    Like this

  21. Lauren says:

    ok i love blue bell so much!!! thanks yall for all you’ve done!!! you rock!

    Like this

  22. [...] See my original post on Blue Bell’s 100th here. Explore posts in the same categories: Texas history, Food history, Museums, Texas, Travel [...]

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  23. Memphis says:

    We love Blue Bell so much my wife and I opened an ice cream store selling 24 flavors in Memphis. I am living a dream! Chocolate Peanut butter for breakfast, Rocky road for lunch and mmm, Black Walnut for dinner!

    Like this

  24. LEE KARUBA says:

    MOVED TO PITTSBURGH PA FROM DALLAS 10 YEARS AGO, AND STILL MISS THE BLUE BELL ICE CREAM. LOVED THE COMMERCIALS TOO. GONNA CHECK OUT WHICH 17 STATES BLUE BELL IS AVAILABLE IN…MAYBE I’LL BE LUCKY.
    ENJOY IT FOR ME EVERYONE!

    Like this

  25. [...] Texas is rich in food, too. Hey, I have to get one of my own posts in here, don’t I? 2007 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the dairy processor in Brenham, Texas, that produces Bluebell Ice Cream, among the best ice creams in the world. You can read it here, “Blue Bell Ice Cream, a tastier part of Texas History.” [...]

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