You wouldn’t think that an ice-cream company would be controversial, would you? I mean, it’s just ice-cream…isn’t it? Well, Ben & Jerry’s seem to be out to prove that they’re a little bit rebellious. In 1982, the company got into trouble with the police when it was suggested that they supported the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a police officer. The company denied any connection but not before a suggested boycott from the Fraternal Order of Police. Since then, you’d think they would have trod carefully and not offended anyone but no, they continue to push the boundaries…
Boundary-pushing goes for their flavors too. If there’s a wacky combination to be made, you can bet that Vermont’s finest will try it. Their ice-cream festivals regularly features “flavor graveyards”, where they mourn the loss of those flavors that didn’t quite make it into the main range. So, here we salute the most controversial, unusual and downright weird flavors that Ben & Jerry’s have ever produced.
10. Black & Tan
How do you manage to be both controversial and a bit disgusting in the one ice-cream? Black & Tan might be the answer! Basing a flavor on a drink that itself is a bit gross is a good start – the Black & Tan is a mixture of pale ale and a darker stout, like Guinness. The stout sits at the top, while the pale ale sits at the bottom, creating a kind of beery tequila-sunset effect. Why anyone feels the need to mix their beers up is one question and why Ben & Jerry’s would choose to mimic it in ice-cream form is another.
But the real controversy came from the choice of name. While Black & Tans are drunk in the US, they are not popular in Ireland. The reason for that is that “Black and Tan” was the name given to the brutal British paramilitary force that made up part of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Their vicious attacks against Irish civilians meant that the name Black & Tan stirred up some very unwelcome memories in the Irish markets. Surprisingly, it wasn’t popular!
9. Pumpkin Cheesecake
From the cringe-inducingly inappropriate to the just-slightly-strange. For many people, this was a few steps too far. Outside the States, pumpkin isn’t hugely popular but most people understand that pumpkin pie is a popular autumn treat. But pumpkin cheesecake? That’s a bit odd. And pumpkin cheesecake ice-cream? Too weird! Throw a few graham crackers in and you have the recipe for a limited run only. Still, US-based food bloggers like Junk Food Guy loved it!
8. Peanut Butter and Jelly
Another American classic that didn’t quite translate to a tasty ice-cream. As the gravestone says above it managed to “flop in a cone”. Why is it that something that works so well in a sandwich is just strange in ice-cream? It featured strawberry jelly and peanut butter chunks, but sadly only featured in the Ben & Jerry’s range for a year.
7. Hubby Hubby
There’s more peanut butter in this controversial entry. The flavor itself was a long-established B&J’s classic called “Chubby Hubby”, but was renamed in 2009 to celebrate the legalization of gay marriage in Vermont. It’s a brave move to make, when much of big business in America is controlled by right-wing, anti-gay marriage lobbyists. But Ben & Jerry are ex-hippies and it comes as no surprise that they’re in favor of equal rights for all. Their chief exective, Walt Freese, explained it like this: “At the core of Ben & Jerry’s values, we believe that social justice can and should be something that every human being is entitled to”.
An admirable stand, but you’ve gotta snigger at the choice of peanuts in this ice-cream. Just me? OK then….
6. Tennessee Mud
Ben & Jerry’s certainly aren’t afraid to take American institutions and incorporate them into their flavors. Sadly, it doesn’t always work. Like the PB&J example above, this attempt to ice-cream-ify iconic whiskey brand Jack Daniels didn’t quite work. I’m in awe of the fact that they even managed to manufacture it – the very low freezing point of alcohol means that making alcoholic ice-cream is a tricky business. But they did it, and Ol’ Jack stood in the freezer compartments unloved for a year. Maybe the name wasn’t that appealing either?