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Doc Brown of Doc's Artisan Ice Creams, Arizona's First Small-Batch Ice Creamery

Doc Brown Owner Doc's Artisan Ice Cream

If you stop by Doc's Artisan Ice Cream in Tempe, you won't find a charming ice cream parlor with a brightly painted walls and beautifully displayed desserts. You'll probably find Brown working away in what amounts to an ice cream laboratory, chock-full of shining metal machines and other tools of the trade.

But don't let that fool you.

"We don't look all fancy inside," Brown admits. "But we make up for it in what we offer."

See also: Eat This Now: Coconut Lemongrass Lime Sorbet from Doc's Artisan Ice Creams in Tempe

To understand what Doc Brown does at his Tempe frozen treat laboratory, you have to start with a lesson in basic ice cream making. Ice cream is usually made by mixing milk, cream, and sugar into a base that's pasteurized to destroy any harmful bacteria. From there, flavor is added, the ice cream is churned, and then refrozen before being served to a customer.

The pasteurization of the ice cream base is a hugely important step. It's what prevents customers from getting a side of salmonella with their frozen treat. But pasteurization requires expensive machinery, a lot of knowledge, and government oversight. That's why many smaller ice cream makers use a commercial ice cream base that usually comes pasteurized by local dairies. In Arizona, one such provider is Shamrock Foods.

But when Brown decided to get into the business, he knew he wanted to have as much control of the final product as possible.

"If I buy a mix from someone, then I have to take what they give me," Brown says. "It was either go big or go home. There was no way I could half step it."

So he became the state's first and only certified small batch ice creamery -- in other words, the first ice cream manufacturer, able to pasteurize his own ice cream base.

"For me, the thing was to be as natural as possible," Brown says.

Being able to produce his own ice cream base gives Brown nearly total control over every ingredient that goes into his products. For example, instead of using sugar or artificial sweeteners, Brown chooses to use sugar cane crystals to sweeten his products. For add-ins he goes to places like Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket for lemongrass and works with farmers market vendors to create flavors like mango and pichu berry.

Brown says what makes him stand out is his ability to combine otherwise uninspiring ingredients into something unique.

"I look at ice cream the way I look at cooking," Brown says.

In the south Tempe production center, Brown has the machinery to make everything from ice cream to Midwestern-style frozen custard. In addition to his pasteurization equipment, he's got three different types of ice cream making machines -- including one from Italy -- and a large commercial freezer. He can make frozen pops, ice cream, sorbet, custard, gelato, and in the future hopes to get the liscences required to make live culture frozen yogurt.

As you can imagine, production of such a wide variety of product requires quite a bit of knowledge. And Brown has the credentials to back it up. The former geologist says he love the scientific side of it all and spent nearly a decade taking ice cream courses around the country. For year, Brown says he enrolled in two to three classes a year, including the prestigious Ice Cream Short Course offered annually at Penn State.

He's made about as intensive a study of ice cream as one can imagine, checking trade magazines for flavor inspirations and amassing a library of ice cream-related books.

Education is a driving motivation for the retired police officer. He says he's not interested in opening a retail store, but would rather focus on working with local restaurants and ice cream artisans as a middle man. Brown can sell his pasteurized base and even customize it to a buyer's specifications. He's also hoping to do private labeling for hotels, restaurants, and other customers.

For now, you can find him at the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market and hopefully at the Gilbert Farmers Market sometime soon. He also brings his products to the University of Phoenix Fountainhead Farmers Market on the third Tuesday of the month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1625 West Fountainhead Parkway in Tempe.

Your personal mantra or catchphrase: "Always . . . unconditionally . . . follow your heart. Understand that persistence, hard work and determination are the keys to success." -- Barbara Cage, poet

Ten years ago I was: Studying for my master's degree.

Favorite song, movie, and book: Favorite song: "Zoom," The Commodores Favorite movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Your favorite childhood food memory: Making homemade ice cream with my family during the summer.

Your guilty pleasure: Enjoying fried chicken wings once a quarter.

Your favorite thing to cook at home: Lasagne

If you could invite any five guests to a dinner party, who would you want to be there: Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Emeril Lagasse, Ben Cohen, and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's.

Your favorite local restaurant and what you like to eat there: Phoenix City Grille's jumbo bacon-wrapped shrimp

What inspired you to get into this business? Memories of my childhood summers combined with our great Valley weather. It lends itself readily to one's desire and need of all things cold and delicious!

The hardest part about starting Doc's Artisan Ice Cream was: Deciding when to leave the job and start the business full time.

What makes your products different from other local ice creams? 1. All our products are made from scratch with natural, wholesome ingredients. 2. We manufacture and pasteurize our own dairy mix under inspection and control by the Arizona Department of Agriculture, State Dairy Control. 3. We manufacture a variety of products and product types. Included among them are: Gelato, ice cream, sorbet, Italian ice. 4. We create very some very unique flavors and tastes using simple, natural and wholesome ingredients. We do our best and do our homework, being sure our products are free of GMOs, dyes, colorings, gluten and preservatives. 5. We take common ingredients and combine them in uncommon ways to make products with real flavors that are bright, bold and clean on your palate.

Three things everyone should try from Doc's Artisan Ice Creams: Coconut Lemongrass Lime Pop (even if you are not a coconut fan, you guys will love this one), Chocolate Gelato, and Mascarpone Gelato.

Your favorite dessert that's not frozen: Lemon meringue pie

Your favorite flavor of ice cream or sorbet: blood orange sorbet

One sweet ingredient you think should be used more in desserts: Anything natural and sweet.

One savory ingredient you think should be used more in desserts: Rosemary

What do you think will be the next dessert trend? I don't know for sure, but I am thinking vegetables will be coming into play.

What's next for Doc's Artisan Ice Creams? Controlling our growth while working hard to have as many of you become fans of our products as possible!

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria