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Credit: Earnest Ice Cream

Earnest Ice Cream sandwiches are sold out of an ice cream tricycle, and packaged in biodegradable paper

Earnest Ice Cream has only been in production for a few weeks, but the start-up's frozen wares are already finding a warm reception in normally gelato-mad Vancouver

The work of two East Van residents, Earnest Ice Cream features a mix of staple, seasonal and specialty flavours made in small batches and packaged in reusable mason jars with handwritten labels.

Ice cream sandwiches, which they sell out of an ice cream tricycle, are also made from scratch, and packaged in biodegradable paper.

"Everything is as whole food as we can get, with a strong emphasis on partnering with local farms," says Ben Ernst.

Ernst, who is originally from Seattle, and business partner Erica Bernardi first hatched the idea over a year ago. Ernst was inspired by American artisanal ice cream shops like Mallard Ice Cream in Bellingham, Big Dipper in Missoula, Montana, and Molly Moon’s and Snoqualmie Ice Cream in Seattle.

"He [Snoqualmie founder Barry Bettinger] really knows what he’s doing," says Ernst. "He’s been in the industry a long time and makes an amazing high-quality ice cream. We’re doing our best to emulate and learn from him."

Earnest Flavours Include Staples and Specialities

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Months of research and development followed their decision to make a go of a small-batch ice cream business. Nothing has gone horribly wrong, says Bernardi, but there have been challenges, such as making an ice cream using a local brewery’s oatmeal stout.  

"The first few attempts were probably not awesome, but the final version people really liked," says Bernardi. "And our coffee flavour took a little while to develop."

The final goal is what she calls "that ultimate creamy mouth feel. Whenever you’re adding in anything with more liquid it’s a challenge to hit that sweet spot."

Earnest Ice Cream flavours now include staples like vanilla and chocolate, specialties like salted caramel and whiskey hazelnut, and seasonal offerings like cardamom and rhubarb.

Working out of Woodlands Smokehouse and Commissary in the East Side, Ernst and Bernardi do everything themselves. This means 80-90 hour work weeks. "We don’t like to think about that," says Bernardi.

Where to Get Earnest Ice Cream

Earnest-Ben-Erica-3_0.jpgBoth Woodlands Smokehouse and Harvest Community Foods carry Earnest Ice Cream, which retails for $9 a pint plus a $1 deposit for the jar. The entrepreneurs also sell their ice cream at farmers markets, and their ice cream sandwiches at community events like Commercial Drive’s Italian Day. At the latter, Bernardi says some people were reluctant to pay $5 for an ice cream sandwich when they could get a scoop of gelato for a buck.

"I just tell them we make everything down the street, and where our ingredients come from," says Bernardi.

Much of the gelato sold in Vancouver is made with ingredients from a can or concentrate, says Ernst. Besides, he says, "Gelato’s fine but it’s just not satisfying to me in the same way ice cream is."

Vancouverites who sample Earnest Ice Cream may find themselves agreeing. "I feel like we’re doing something that doesn’t exist here yet," says Ernst. "And I think this city is ready for it."