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After 30 Years, Yuengling Ice Cream Makes a Comeback

[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Here's a lesson in why you should never knock American ingenuity.

In 1919, the 18th amendment was ratified, banning the production of alcohol across the U.S. With warehouses full of heavy machinery and a roster of employees to support, America's breweries felt a massive, immediate need for a Plan B.

Some turned their production lines to chocolate milk. Others, more successfully, to soda. Pennsylvania's Yuengling's ventured into ice cream.

Vanilla.

The product was so popular that the company kept it on for decades after Prohibition was repealed. But nearly 30 years ago, the churns went silent and Yuengling's ice cream left the American market. Now it's back, and despite its long absence, some grocery stores can't keep it on the shelves.

It's initially available in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, with an MSRP of $5.49 to $5.99 for a quart. The 10 flavors stay pretty close to the classics—vanilla, chocolate, mint chip—though there are some less common but welcome options like root beer float and black and tan.

Vanilla fudge chunk.

These are workhorse, no-frills ice creams—nothing's going to take you by surprise. The flavors are clean and designed to please crowds; the texture's nicely creamy, reasonably dense, and not over-stabilized. Here's our rundown on the six flavors we tried.

The Vanilla tastes pretty, well, vanilla—mild and unassuming, it calls out for hot fudge. It meets that upgrade with Vanilla Fudge Chunk, featuring the same vanilla ice cream with a swirl of chocolate syrup-like "fudge," small chocolate chips, and the best part—chocolate-covered pretzels. We'd love even more chunks—we'd always love more chunks with our packaged ice cream—but the ice cream hits a great salty-sweet note.

Chocolate has a mild cocoa flavor and a richer, fudgier texture than the vanilla. You really see that textural difference in the Black and Tan, where the chocolate is swirled with a soft, very sweet caramel ice cream. That caramel tastes more like candy than ice cream, but when paired with the chocolate it met few complaints.

Espresso chocolate chip.

Espresso Chocolate Chip was our favorite of the bunch thanks to its cool, clean coffee flavor and satisfying hits of chocolate bitterness. But again—more chips, please!

Root beer float.

Less to our liking was the Root Beer Float. Take it from someone who's tried—capturing the fizzy, medicinal pop of root beer in ice cream form is tough, and this one doesn't nail it. The flavor is diluted, and the spicy, herbal bite of great root beer is missing.

Black and tan.

Does Yuengling's ice cream offer anything drastically different from its peers? No, but that's not what it's going for. This is the kind of classic, stand-up ice cream everyone should have in their freezers for satisfying those ice cream emergencies. And yes, it does taste better when eaten out of the carton in front of the freezer.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the New York editor and ice cream maker in residence at Serious Eats. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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