Hearing that Curveball was cancelled, I knew only one thing could console me in that moment: Ben & Jerry’s. After helping pack up the WaterWheel table, I headed to the B&J’s booth and was miracled a case of It’s Ice Cream, loaded with almond toffee, fudge fish, and caramel swirl in a caramel malt base. Jim Pollock designed the flavor’s artwork and had painted a huge, beautiful mural for the fans to enjoy at Curveball. Crying in my cream, I got a couple photos before heading out to give melting pints to crushed phans. The next morning, we rallied to sell our It’s Ice Cold Brew, complete with Hood creamers or sweetened condensed milk for Vietnamese-style, to campers leaving the festival that never began. I topped my coffee off with a glug of Pollock’s melted ice cream stashed in the cooler, a sweet consolation from my Phish fest MVP, Ben & Jerry’s.
How did Ben & Jerry’s team up with Phish and WaterWheel for the partnership we all know and love today? When Phish was approached to license their name for a flavor in 1996, the band was initially not interested. However, they had been discussing how to expand their support of nonprofits, especially environmental causes, and discovered that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield shared their charitable vision. Phish agreed to a flavor if it could take their philanthropy to a higher level.
The band was a big part of the flavor creation process, demanding caramel instead when Ben suggested raspberry swirl, and requesting “10 more (fudge) fish per pint. ” Jerry remembers, “We ate a lot of test pints around the table with Phish. We’ve done flavors with other artists and entities, but nobody was more involved in creating the flavor than Phish.” On March 18th, 1997 the Phish Food flavor was officially announced in Burlington, Vermont at a Phish show at the Flynn Theater, opening with their very first Cinnamon Girl cover.
According to Fishman, the idea for the collaboration was validated by Paul Newman’s success raising money for his charity with Newman’s Own products. The band agreed to put their royalties from Phish Food towards environmental causes, and Mike Gordon came up with the name for The WaterWheel Foundation, their new nonprofit organization that would manage distribution of funds. WaterWheel went on to support a large sphere of needs including social services, food banks, urban gardening, clean water and land conservation with public access.
Ben & Jerry’s has continued to be part of the Phish community, collaborating with special events, more flavors like Freezer Reprise and It’s Ice Cream, and co-branded merchandise to support WaterWheel. “Flavor Guru” Eric Fredette at Ben & Jerry’s HQ in Vermont compares the blending of ice cream flavors with the mixing of musical notes, as both involve the same ingredients, but with endless creative combinations that make them unique. The partnership between Phish, WaterWheel and Ben & Jerry’s spanning over two decades, raising awareness and funds for good causes across the country, has proved to be just as uniquely sweet as their ice cream. I am proud to be both a WaterWheel volunteer and Ben & Jerry’s phangirl for life!
Burlington Free Press https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/life/2018/06/07/ben-jerrys-phish-its-ice-cream/671159002/
Kevin Shapiro for Nugs.net http://hood.nugs.net/cs/blogs/live-phish/archive/2010/10/19/phish-3-18-97-flynn-theatre-burlington-vt-essay-by-phish-archivist-kevin-shapiro-4-6-07.aspx
Ben and Jerry’s https://www.benjerry.com/flavors/phish-food-ice-cream