If you’re serious about celebrating National Ice Cream Month, there’s one place you must visit before the month melts away: Tillamook Creamery, where you can take in the longstanding Oregon company’s cheese and ice cream operations.
And when you’re a journalist, “you should talk to the best ice cream brand,” said Deanna Hirt, director of guest experience operations at the creamery in Tillamook, located about 70 miles west of Portland.
We started with some of the most popular flavors at the creamery, according to Hirt and colleague Eric Secher, brand integration and training manager at Tillamook: Tillamook Mudslide and Marionberry Pie.
“That’s the classic Oregon Marionberry Pie everyone loves,” Hirt said. “My personal favorite is our Chocolate Peanut Butter. I think it is the best and the richest chocolate peanut butter there is.”
Those are some of the most often-scooped flavors. But Tillamook has been nationally distributed for several years, and it’s almost chilling when Secher shares the most popular flavor around this bland land.
“Vanilla, which surprises me, is one of the most popular flavors, and that’s consistent with all other brands,” Secher said. “Sometimes people who are a little hesitant, they really want to lead with something that they’re familiar with or comfortable with, so vanilla is always one of our leading bestsellers.” (At tillamaps.com, you can explore what grocery stores carry which flavors around the country.)
“It is a very modern farm experience now,” Hirt said. In non-COVID times, it averages a whopping 10,000 visitors daily.
“We’re getting close to that right now, in this month of July, we’re getting very close to that. Travel is back,” Hirt said. “Especially here at the coast.”
The creamery offers a self-guided tour where visitors can learn about the Tillamook dairy farm, see the cheese being made and packaged in the factory, and try sample cheese in a COVID-safe, packaged way. There’s also a retail store for buying Tillamook-branded merchandise and products. Then there’s the cafe and ice cream area.
“In our ice cream area, you can try samples of ice cream before you purchase,” Hirt explained. “If you can’t decide what to purchase, that sampling gives you an opportunity to try out something more bold that you might not have originally ordered.”
There’s also something new — and potentially very special — for ice cream lovers.
“Going forward, we are doing a hybrid of both free and private, paid experiences,” Secher said. “This new offering gives a peek behind the curtain of Tillamook’s favorite frozen product, aka ice cream. … It is a 60-minute experience where guests become honorary Tillamook taste buds, aka our sensory team.”
The 60-minute experience in part lets visitors see how the sensory and R&D team develop new products.
Yes. Tillamook employs a sensory team that has over 70 years of collective experience tasting different products and being in the field.
“It sounds like a dream job to me,” Secher said. “Like I’m about to jump ship and try ice cream every day.”
“Our sensory team tastes over 500 products a day, just to make sure of quality and consistency,” Secher said. Reservations must be made in advance at exploretock.com/tillamookcreamery. The cost is $15 to $20.
Tillamook recently released eight flavors of frozen custards. They’re sold in pints, and you can also locate where they’re sold at tillamaps.com, Secher said.
“However, they are being exclusively scooped here at the Tillamook Creamery, so if guests want to try them, they’re here,” he added. “We also have a flavor that’s exclusively created for the Tillamook Creamery, and that is key lime pie.”
Summer is when business is most brisk at the creamery — not only because July is National Ice Cream Month, Hirt said.
“It’s hot out. The sun is shining. What’s better than going on a hike or doing some other Oregon outdoor activity, and then finishing off with a nice double-scoop waffle cone ice cream?”
That’s an easy one to answer: a triple-scoop.