If you’re in the Harrisburg area, you may have noticed some local hotspots like Midtown Cinema offering locally-made ice cream in very interesting flavors. From strawberry basil mojito to bacon-infused ice cream, some wild and wonderful combinations are coming out of the Urban Churn creamery as of late. The mind behind Urban Churn is Adam Brackbill, a former freelance website builder & consultant who ditched the development business to make ice cream with newfangled flavors the old-fashioned way.
Brackbill’s ice cream is different from others because it really is the sum of its parts. “We try our best to use local ingredients, fresh, and no flavorings,” he explains.
The mint for this summer’s flavors is entirely grown in a backyard mint patch specifically for Urban Churn’s use, and they brew those mint leaves to utilize in their house favorite, mint chocolate chip ice cream. Their method is also unique, at least in this day and age; they use the old-fashioned salt-and-ice method of making ice cream, which yields that awesome creamy consistency so many seek in craft ice cream. Even the machine churns Brackbill uses are locally sourced, built by Amish artisans in Lancaster.
So what pushed a successful start-up maven into a completely different field – and making frozen treats, nonetheless?
Brackbill admits, “At my age, it’s such a random thing to do.” Maybe not as random as it appears, though – he noticed a gap no one was stepping up to fill. People in Harrisburg were complaining of a dearth of creameries and ice cream vendors outside of Turkey Hill. Brackbill already knew how to run a business, and thanks to his background, he also had a wealth of knowledge of everyone’s favorite frosty dessert. “My family makes ice cream traditionally for our family gatherings,” he explains.
“So I put the two and two together and thought I could bring the traditional way of making ice cream to the people in [Harrisburg].”
But how on earth did Brackbill decide to make bourbon-flavored ice cream?
“Inspirations and creativity go hand in hand,” Brackbill says. He is also inspired by other local tastemakers. He cites, in particular, Chef Kurt Wewer of The Garlic Poet (which also vends his ice cream, and with whom he has collaborated on multiple occasions.)
The Urban Churn has recently put out several alcohol-flavored offerings, often partnering with microbreweries like Zeroday (Urban Churn’s Midtown neighbor) and local businesses like the Garlic Poet’s sister restaurant Grain + Verse. “I love beer, whiskey, wine,” Brackbill declares, explaining that his love for these libations and for ice cream inspired him to combine the two. His first attempt was a Guinness and chocolate combo, which debuted to universal adoration.
Unfortunately, thanks to Pennsylvania state regulations, you can’t eat the Urban Churn’s boozy delights and expect a buzz. There’s no actual alcohol content in the alcohol-themed flavors (yet – Brackbill’s trying to work with the State to bring the people the truly boozy delights they demand and deserve). Don’t let that stop you, though – the Urban Churn does make ice creams that pair very well with your favorite drinks. They’ve done beer-and-ice-cream pairings with Tröegs Brewing Company, and Brackbill is always looking for more partnerships with local businesses.
Interested parties, in fact, can order their own ice cream – restaurants can do so now. Starting July 6, individuals will be able to custom order flavors to their weird little hearts’ content and pick up the finished products at the Midtown Cinema. If you’re stumped for ideas, Brackbill recommends either the Salty Caramel flavor for traditionalists, or the Breakfast Ice Cream – which is bacon, waffles, and maple syrup – for people who want to branch out… but if you’ve got custom requests, line ‘em up. Brackbill is confident in his ability to churn out anything you can think up, though he says some flavors are more challenging than others.
“We, at times, make dairy free ice cream… [when making these flavors] it’s difficult to get the quantity of ingredients we need at the right price… [keeping] the dairy free creamy and consistent is a challenge,” Brackbill explains.
Citrusy flavors also present a challenge, though fruit flavors in general require special care: “We don’t use artificial flavorings, or colorings, so when using fruits, we have to be quick so the milk doesn’t turn.”
If all this sounds as mouth-wateringly amazing to you as it does to me, you’re in luck. An Urban Churn shop is in the works.
“A storefront is in plans for this time next year,” Brackbill announces. The new storefront will be somewhere in Harrisburg; many of Brackbill’s business partners are there and several plans are in the works to utilize the downtown connections the Urban Churn has been building. Besides plans for popup locations throughout Harrisburg, a mobile app will soon launch for fans of Urban Churn. This app will enable people to check up on flavors, see where their favorite ice creams are selling, and keep track of specials.
Brackbill’s bringing authenticity to a field that is often – as all things are – increasingly corporatized. And if he can do it while making something as interesting as a breakfast-flavored ice cream – well, then, more power to him.