Ben & Jerry’s and New Belgium recently collaborated to create a new ice cream and beer of the same name and flavor, Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale. I was more than happy to try the pair.Branding-wise, Ben & Jerry’s and New Belgium are perfect matches. Both have pretty large presences in their respective markets (over $350 million in sales for Ben & Jerry’s and just under a million barrels produced for New Belgium in 2015), but still manage to maintain a perception of “craft” businesses. Part of that perception is due to the companies’ propensity for more earth-friendly business practices. New Belgium has prioritized environmental metrics for their operations, while Ben & Jerry’s, among supporting numerous progressive causes, stores their ice cream in environmentally friendly freezers and feeds their ice cream waste to some happy pigs. The two companies came together in large part because of their earth-conscious commonalities, with a portion of all proceeds from the Salted Caramel Brown-ie collaboration going towards Protect Our Winters, an organization that helps mobilize the winter sports community against climate change.
I am more than happy to also note that Ben & Jerry’s is my favorite ice cream brand. On the spectrum of premium ice creams, you can find a pint that’s too dense (COUGHhaagendazsCOUGH) or too close to just plain old regular ice cream (Baskin-Robbins, Blue Bunny, or basically any other standard ice cream brand). Ben & Jerry’s is always dependable for a great, uncomplicated, premium ice cream with tons of toppings, and oh yeah, is a full pint. 14 ounce “pints” are a crime against humanity.
I started with New Belgium’s beer, which had caramel and cocoa in the nose. On taste, it’s a straight-forward, accessible brown ale with a smooth, sweet caramel body that almost plays like a nut brown. The finish ends on a touch of bitter char. On subsequent sips, there’s a hint of sea salt if you’re really looking for it. On its own, it’s a good, pleasant brew. The real surprise was that the ice cream and the beer actually work better together than independently.
I’ve had a majority of Ben & Jerry’s flavors, and this is easily the most savory I’ve had. The salted caramel ice cream is far saltier than any effect of the beer. While the brownie pieces do appropriately sweeten things up, the swirl of salted caramel only further punctuates the savory feel. This is not a bad thing; it’s just a markedly different flavor profile than most Ben & Jerry’s offerings.
Back to the combination of the two. As I mentioned, the beer finishes a little bitter, but the bitterness accentuates the dairy creaminess of the ensuing ice cream and punches up the sweetness. It’s almost like a batting doughnut effect. Change the palette from neutral, and the next flavor’s impact is entirely different.
The salty component builds on each successive bite of ice cream, actually encouraging you to go back for a sip of beer. Not only is the beer a palette cleanser (the thick cream from the last bite of ice cream makes the sip of beer seem lighter in body), but the touch of bitterness leads right back into the ice cream. It’s a remarkably effective cycle.
As I was looking through material on their site, I stumbled upon an extension to this collaboration – Perfect Pairings. They take my method of alternating beer and ice cream, and crank it to 11 by instructing the dessert enjoyer to actually mix beer into the paired ice cream. I have a couple more brands to tackle in the next few Suds ‘N Scoops, but you better believe I’ll be circling back around on a couple of these.
At very least, Perfect Pairings further enforces the idea that Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Gurus and New Belgium’s brewmasters had the combined experience in mind when creating the two products. As well executed as the collaboration was, I’m hopeful their path cross again in the future.