Collaborations are nothing new to the world of craft beer. Peruse the aisle at your local beer store and you’re likely to see a dozen or so beers that were made in collaboration with multiple breweries. It is strange, however, when one of the sides is a brewery and the other side happens to be a famous ice-cream producer. Also, this is the first collaboration (as far as I know) where one company made a beer and the other company made a corresponding ice cream.
Recently, New Belgium, the Colorado based craft brewery and Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont-based ice cream company joined together to create Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie Ale. “Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale is a classic brown ale with salt, chocolate nibs and vanilla added to enhance the brownie-like flavor,” says Bryan Simpson, media relations director for New Belgium Brewing. “It’s got roasty, chocolaty tones and, weighs in around 6.2 % ABV and has a surprisingly dry finish, which plays nicely when mixed with ice cream.”
A Unique Collaboration is Born
Simpson says it all started with an image New Belgium posted to Instagram of an ice cream float. “Ben & Jerry’s noticed right away it was another ice cream brand and they were mock outraged.” This opened up communication between the companies and everyone quickly agreed that it made sense to work together on a project of some kind. “We developed the beer, they used it in the ice cream and to make sure the whole thing was meaningful.” He adds, “We decided to donate proceeds from the sale of both to Protect Our Winters (POW) to raise awareness around climate change.”
The decision of what beer style to make was actually fairly easy for the folks at New Belgium. “Thinking about ice cream, we immediately went to chocolate and salted chocolate is really hitting these days so that seemed fun,” says Simpson. In this case, the salt acts more as a flavor enhancer so it intensifies the caramel malts and chocolate and vanilla tones. “We shipped multiple versions back to Ben & Jerry’s flavor guru who wrote up notes and got to work on how to make an ice cream with it. It was really collaborative from the get go.”
Beer and Ice Cream Work Well Together
From a business standpoint, both companies are “Benefit” or B Corporations. This means that they are beholden to more than just the almighty dollar. “We take into consideration the environment and our communities when making decisions around everything from what ingredients to use to how we power our facility.” From a foodie perspective, beer and ice cream are awesome together. “A beer ice cream float is surprisingly less sweet than the traditional root beer float so the malted caramel plays off the cream and the chocolates interlace – it’s pretty awesome.”
Protect Our Winters
Pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones founded Protect Our Winters as a response to witnessing climate change first hand. “Traveling the world, he was keenly aware of diminishing snowpacks, shorter seasons and overall climate weirdness,” says Simpson. The charity does great work illuminating the challenge to recreational athletes who love their environment and want to have fun while protecting it. “It’s playful and meaningful and that’s right where we like to go with our messaging as well.” One component of the campaign was for citizens write letters to their Governor in Support of the Clean Power Plan, which will help reduce carbon in the nation’s energy grid. “We provided letter templates in the form of a Mad Lib with fill in the blanks – it was fun and cool and sent a great message.”
Together, the companies raised around $100,000 for Protect Our Winters. “The beer and ice cream are still in markets so that was based on sales projections for both brands.” They awarded the money at a celebration in Denver last week and they were profoundly grateful. “Which for me was truly an honor to be a part of.”
The Climate Change Problem
Simpson says that Climate policy to help combat climate change is critically important. “The Paris climate accord is a good start; it signals to businesses across the globe that there is a new paradigm going forward.” The policy makes investment in renewable energy more tenable and codifies what the world’s scientists have been saying for years. “We need to take action, now, if not yesterday. It should be a very hopeful time.”
Simpson says the whole experience has been a great, meaningful collaboration. “We’ve learned a lot and had so much fun. The beer and the ice cream have been really well-received and maybe we made folks smile and did our little piece for climate awareness. That’s a pretty successful project in my book.”
Founded in 1991 in For Collins, Colorado, New Belgium is one of the biggest names in the world of craft brewing. The company was founded by Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan after Lebesch decided to turn his home-brewing hobby into a full-time job. New Belgium’s flagship beer is an amber ale called Fat Tire, a beer named for a bicycle trip through Belgium to visit breweries. Their other beers include: Ranger IPA, Rampant Imperial IPA, La Folie and Le Terroir.
Ben & Jerry’s
Founded in 1978 in Burlington, Vermonth, Ben & Jerry’s is the brainchild of childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. After completing college, Greenfield decided that medical school wasn’t for him. Cohen dropped out of college and in 1977, the duo took a college course on ice cream making. In May of 1978, the pair opened their first ice-cream shop in a former gas station in Burlington. Over the years, the company has expanded to locations in over 29 countries and you can find Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in grocery stores in all corners of the globe. Some of their famous flavors include: Chubby Hubby, Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.