August in Houston is not for the weak, which is exactly why we've come to rely heavily on our beat-the-heat home remedies: things like sweet tea, snow cones, gazpacho and ice cream. Not at the same time, of course.
All of that means that August is the perfect month to visit the Blue Bell Creamery, just up 290 in Brenham. The Little Creamery That Could has given us 100-plus years of *delicious* servitude. And while it's a true Texas treasure, folks who didn't grow up 'round these parts often consider Blue Bell ice cream an acquired taste. However, despite being sold in just 17 states, Blue Bell now claims to be the third-bestselling ice cream in the country, a pretty remarkable feat for a family-run shop in a tiny town.
I stopped by Blue Bell last Friday, where the line waiting to tour was longer than a Loop 610 traffic jam. I bypassed the congestion and skipped my way right into the Scoop Shop, which is open Mondays through Saturdays for anyone who wants to stop by. The Scoop Shop offers 16 lovely flavors -- a little taste of winter in the dead of summer -- and all of them, of course, are freshly made on site. Besides the usuals, the shop also offers some of the summer spectaculars: Caramel Kettle Crunch, Southern Hospitality, and Triple Caramel, among others. For once, I managed to pry myself away from the requisite Cookie and Cream in favor of the new-ish Southern Blackberry Cobbler...vanilla ice cream with a blackberry swirl and delicious chunks of cobbler crust. Perhaps best of all, your "scoop" (which is more like two) will set you back a whole dollar.
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If you're looking for something more extensive, creamery tours are offered Mondays through Fridays at ten-minute intervals throughout the day. The tour starts with a quick film about the history and culture of Blue Bell. After that you'll get a behind-the-scenes look at the magical makers themselves: Watch as your favorite flavors are blended and packed. The tour culminates with a stop at the Scoop Shop for a complimentary cup of ice cream. Regular tour tickets are $5, seniors and children aged 6-14 are $3. Children 5 and under are free.