REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert (P.B. & Cookies, Coffee Caramel Fudge, Caramel Almond Brittle)

I’ll be honest – non-dairy ice cream really isn’t a priority for me. I have nothing against it, but the higher price tag and generally less delicious outcome isn’t something that I feel the need to seek out and spend my hard earned money on. The only Ben & Jerry’s dairy free flavor I really gave a shot prior to 2018 was the vegan exclusive Seven Layer Bar, but for some unknown reason the availability and price of B&J’s almond milk-based pints have become much more reasonable this year and I now feel compelled to give them their due. While vegan-ified versions of staple but subpar flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey don’t get me too pumped, these three pints that don’t exist with cows milk have me kinda stoked. Let’s spoon.

P.B. & Cookies

Vanilla with chocolate sandwich cookies & crunchy peanut butter swirls

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Keep Caramel and Cookie On

Malted milk powder is a combination of barley malt, wheat flour, milk powder, and salt. Somehow that combination, originally developed as an infant formula in the early 1900’s, makes for one helluva tasty marriage with lusciously sweet ice cream. Although not seen too often in grocery store pints, the allure and boom of malt has outlasted its soda jerk peak of the 1940’s and still finds ways to sneak into our creamy fantasies every so often. Brand new for 2017, Ben & Jerry’s are inviting us all to chill the eff out with Keep Caramel and Cookie On, which combines a malted caramel ice cream with shortbread cookies, fudge flakes, and a caramel swirl.

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When I think about malt I think about a roast-y funk and when I think about caramel I think about sweet, and this malted caramel base has a nice balance of the two. There’s a noticeable wheat-y funkiness that cuts through the usual hyper-sweet intensity of caramel and creates a flavor very similar to a sweet cream with a little extra pizazz. The malt is less heavy than the vanilla malt in B&J’s Chubby Hubby but more interesting than your standard variety vanilla or B&J’s regular caramel base. I like it, it’s smooth, creamy, fun, and not too sweet, which leaves room for the real caramel to do its purely sugary job with authority.

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The caramel and fudge flakes both serve their purpose – bringing sweetness, texture, and overall variety to the predominantly tan pint. The caramel is straight forward – no salty or burnt notes to be found – integrating itself in thin wispiness throughout the container, and the fudge flakes are in perfect ratio with the other components. Some of the recent flavors from B&J’s have had way too many flakes for their own good, but here they are slightly smaller and less prominent and their melty semi-sweet cocoa presence is very welcome to the equation.

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My favorite component of this calming ice cream are the shortbread cookies. While they don’t stand out as particularly shortbread-y, aka crumbly and slightly firm, they have a great buttery, flour-forward semi-salty flavor with softened baked texture that goes really well with the double caramel profile. The pieces could honestly be sugar cookies or even cake with the way they’ve interacted with the cream, but I’m a sucker for both cake and cookies in frozen form and their mellow flavor really works.

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This is another release from Ben & Jerry’s that’s pretty safe but overall very enjoyable. It isn’t breaking any boundaries but it isn’t disappointing either. The malt in the base adds a bit of intrigue and the balance between all the components, at least in my pint, were spot on. At the very least it’s a far superior flavor to the other Target exclusive it replaced – A Swirled of Difference.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Target ($4.49)

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon

I’m not the biggest drinker in the world but I love me some boozy ice cream.  Many mainstream ice cream companies are afraid to work with alcohol, probably a little bit due to the adult social association it may carry, but also from a technical side, since hard liquor doesn’t freeze using it within ice cream takes some serious skill.  Difficult execution aside, some of my all time favorite flavors meld cream and alcohol in a way that yields addictive perfection, and in the year 2017 Ben and Jerry’s are officially gunning for my heart with the release of Urban Bourbon.  This brand new flavor combines a burnt caramel ice cream with almonds, fudge flakes, and a bourbon caramel swirl.

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The burnt caramel base is more subdued than I expected, without any dominant sweet caramel notes or rich deep burnt flavor coming through.  There’s a little bit of roasted flavor but not even a quarter of the amount as other burnt caramel bases I’ve had, like the phenomenal one from Bi-Rite.  It also feels a little on the thin side for a premium scoop, with an almost watery finish that doesn’t leave a strong aftertaste.  The almonds are small and integrated throughout the texture of the ice cream itself, adding a constant small chew without any almond flavor or big satisfying snap.  The fudge flakes are great, big chunks of sweet dark chocolate that add good texture, but there are simply too many of them.  Since they are the least unique part of this pint I want them to come in and out of the bites and they’re taking over almost every spoonful.

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The biggest issue with this pint is the lack of booziness.  For a flavor with bourbon in its name it’s a pretty big let down how un-boozy the overall experience of eating this ice cream is.  The only element that has the bourbon is the caramel swirl and there is very little of the swirl to be found.  I had a little bit towards the top and had to dig past the middle of the container to get more of the good stuff, and even then it wasn’t as bourbon-y or complex as I was expecting.  A big gob of the caramel on my spoon only gave off a bit of bourbon flavor and came off more straight sweet with a slight bitter finish than booze balanced by sugar.  I wish I could have had more caramel to try and critique the use of the bourbon better but it was nowhere to be found, even as I dug to the very bottom of the pint.

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Overall the almonds actually hurt the flavor, taking away from the creaminess and any subtle burnt notes that should be present in a base like this.  The bourbon caramel is a letdown, not only in its flavor, but in its quantity, and there is way too much chocolate to savor the little bit of liquor you might be able to salvage from digging.  Interestingly, I actually get more of a roasted coffee vibe than a caramel vibe from this pint as a whole.  Every time that I would start to grasp any kind of burnt quality it would immediately get washed away and blown out by the huge chocolate flakes.  Maybe I’m just spoiled by great local creameries, but two of my favorite flavors, Humphry Slocombe’s Secret Breakfast and Little Giant’s Dirty South, both use the beautiful booze balance so much more convincingly that I can’t help but be very let down by Ben and Jerry’s attempt.

Rating: 5/10