Kids across Michigan instantly recognize those fruity swirls of red, yellow, and blue you see in cups and cones, and usually also on tongues and faces, all summer. But you may be surprised to learn that Superman Ice Cream isn’t well known outside of the Midwest.
In fact, you can find Superman Ice Cream almost exclusively in Michigan. Only a few other states in the region have it, and there really is no substitute for the Michigan summer-y goodness that is Superman Ice Cream!
Note: a 2019 WorkWise study found that Michigan is the only state where the overall favorite ice cream flavor is Superman, topping the national favorite of cookies and cream.
From unofficial origins to a mysterious flavor combination, let’s dive into this all-time favorite frozen dessert.
The History of Superman Ice Cream
The origin of Superman ice cream is still up for debate, but the most accepted story is that Stroh Brewery Company invented the swirling concoction during Prohibition. Like many other beer and spirits producers in the country, it had to restructure its operations in 1920 when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol was banned.
While saloons were closing, ice cream parlors were becoming popular hangouts for men. At the time, Stroh Brewery head Julius Stroh decided to turn the company’s Detroit factory into a nonalcoholic beverage producer. The company started making near beer, birch beer, malt products, soft drinks, and ice. Under a different brand — Alaska — it made ice cream. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the ice cream was so profitable and popular that it continued making the frozen treat alongside its beers.
Stroh Brewing built a new ice cream facility in Detroit in the early 1980s. During a corporate restructuring, it was sold in 1989. Then, in 1999, Stroh Brewery ended its brewing operations and sold its brands to Miller Brewing Company and Pabst Brewing Company. Melody Farms ran the Stroh’s Ice Cream business, keeping the name for several years.
In 2005, the business was purchased by Dallas-based Dean Foods, which continues to distribute Stroh’s Ice Cream and its unique Superman flavor under the name Super Rainbow. The ice cream factory was moved to Illinois in 2007, but the distribution center remains in Detroit.
Many other Michigan ice cream brands created their own versions of Superman ice cream. All of them have different names for the treat too. For instance, Purple Cow calls it Scooperman and Hudsonville Ice Cream calls it SuperScoop.
Superman Ice Cream Colors & Flavors
The original Superman ice cream features blue, red, and yellow colors. These remain the same across all of the brands… and then there’s a separate mystery regarding Blue Moon ice cream.
What Flavor is Superman Ice Cream?
The flavor of superman ice cream is slightly different depending on which Michigan ice cream brand you taste. Superman ice cream flavors are Blue Moon, Red Pop or black cherry, and lemon or vanilla.
Stroh’s Ice Cream makes Super Rainbow with Blue Moon, Red Pop (strawberry), and lemon. The Red Pop pays homage to Faygo’s classic strawberry pop, which is a well-loved Michigan drink. Both Hudsonville and Purple Cow, though, make theirs with Blue Moon, black cherry instead of Red Pop, and vanilla instead of lemon.
The Blue Moon Mystery
No one really knows the flavor of Blue Moon ice cream. The bright blue color is where it gets its name, but the proprietary blend remains under lock and key. Speculators say that they can taste a range of flavors — marshmallows, almond extract, citrus notes, and cereals such as Fruit Loops, Fruity Pebbles, and Trix.
According to patent ownership, Austrian chemist Bill “Doc” Sidon created the formula while working as the chief flavor chemist at Petran Products in Milwaukee in the 1950s. Many people have tried to replicate the original Blue Moon recipe, and although some have come close, the true formula remains a secret. Nevertheless, it’s a popular flavor alone and as part of Superman ice cream.
Superman Ice Cream in Other States & Canada
In other Midwestern states, the Superman flavors vary a little more:
- Ohio-based United Dairy Farmers, for example, creates Super Moo with a combination of blue vanilla, cherry, and vanilla.
- In Wisconsin, Cedar Crest Ice Cream makes Super Madness with blue raspberry, cherry, and vanilla flavors.
- Then there’s Laura Secord Chocolates based in Ontario, which uses blueberry, strawberry, and banana flavors for its Super Kid ice cream.
No Affiliation With DC Comics
Despite being referred to as Superman ice cream, this frozen treat was invented before the superhero made his first appearance in Action Comics in 1938. Also, DC Comics has never granted a license for the character’s name to be officially used for this colorful swirl. So, the origin of the name is an even bigger mystery.
To avoid copyright issues now, ice cream parlors and manufacturers sell the frozen dessert under various names — ie. Super Rainbow, Scooperman, and SuperScoop. But that doesn’t hold it back from being a legendary flavor that kids love and adults remember fondly.
Best Places to Get Superman Ice Cream in Michigan
Of course, you can buy various brands of Superman ice cream at your local grocery store. Doing so gives you the option to try each flavor on its own or in other combinations — blue and red, blue and yellow, or red and yellow — just like Neapolitan ice cream.
But you’ll have more fun going to an ice cream parlor, and Michigan has plenty.
While you can go at any time, consider going in July — National Ice Cream Month. Make your visit even more special by visiting on the third Sunday of the month — National Ice Cream Day!
Here are some ice cream parlors across Michigan that we recommend for trying the Superman flavor:
- Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City serves Super Moo in flavors that may vary.
- Pinkie’s Ice Cream and Desserts in Grand Rapids serves Supercow with Blue Moon, cherry, and lemon flavors.
- House of Flavors Restaurant in Ludington serves Superman with Blue Moon, cherry, and lemon flavors.
- Marion’s Dairy Bar has great options in East Tawas.
- Jaami’s Ice Cream and Treats is a nice place in Frankenmuth.
- The Blue Moon Ice Cream Shop in Ovid has some of the best Blue Moon ice cream and has a Superman flavor.
- The Parlour of Jackson is a 1950s-style diner in Jackson with some of the biggest portions in all of Michigan.
- Cascades Ice Cream Co. features hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream next to the world-famous Cascade Falls.
- Stroh’s Ice Cream Parlor of Bloomfield Hills & Stroh’s Ice Cream Parlor of Wyandotte in the Detroit area serve the original combination of Blue Moon, Red Pop, and lemon flavors.
Is Superman Ice Cream your Kryptonite? Where is your favorite place to get Superman ice cream in Michigan?
More Delicious Superman Ice Cream Treats
Although Superman ice cream is amazing on its own, it’s fun to experiment with it in other recipes.
That’s exactly what Cynthia Yousif did in her small Sterling Heights bakery — Cynthia’s Edible Arts. What started out as baking for fun and holiday gatherings has turned into a full-blown business for her. She makes various cheesecakes, chocolate-covered treats, and marshmallow confections. Most interesting to us is her Superman ice cream cheesecake, which is topped with Fruity Pebbles.
Liz, the Cupcake Lady, lives just across the border in Indiana and created a Superman Ice Cream Cupcake to honor her husband’s love of Superman ice cream. While it doesn’t actually contain Superman ice cream in the cupcake, the colors and flavors are all there, and it’d be delicious served with a scoop or two!
Superman Ice Cream Gifts
If you or someone you know LOVES Superman ice cream, you will love these fun Superman ice cream gifts we found…
Superman Ice Cream Candle: A wonderful blend of vanilla & bubblegum fruitiness brings the smell of this eccentric ice cream to your comfortable living environment.
Superman Ice Cream Sticker: An ice cream cone filled with red, blue, and yellow ice cream in the shape of Michigan is the perfect sticker for any Superman Ice Cream lover!
Looking for more uniquely Michigan gift ideas? Don’t miss our ultimate list of Michigan gifts!