A beloved ice cream shop teams up with local producers to create unforgettable, surprising flavors

Story & photography by Justin Franz

In the old days, most ice cream shops offered at least two flavors: chocolate and vanilla. Thankfully, those dark days are over, and it’s not just Baskin-Robbins and its 31 flavors leading the way to ice cream ecstasy.

Since its inception in 2010, Sweet Peaks Ice Cream has come up with more than 100 different flavors, and one of the co-founders, Marissa Keenan, says, “We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

“Ice cream is a blank canvas, and it’s so much fun experimenting with new flavors,” she says.

When Keenan and her husband, Sam Dauenhauer, first opened Sweet Peaks in Whitefish, they knew they wanted to offer more than just the flavors everyone has come to expect at an ice cream shop, although “classics” like chocolate, huckleberry, salty caramel, espresso and mint are always available at Sweet Peaks’ eight locations across the inland Northwest. Every few months, Keenan and Dauenhauer release a half-dozen new flavors inspired by local ingredients, products and even meals they’ve had.

“Sometimes we’ll be at a friend’s house or out to a restaurant, and we’ll have a dessert and think to ourselves, ‘This is great — how can we make this into an ice cream?’” Keenan says.

Sweet Peaks only makes a few hundred gallons of the specialty flavors for all of its locations, and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good, although some flavors, like the ever-popular Flathead Cherry, have made multiple returns — Keenan says they are always tweaking it and improving the recipe. Sometimes Keenan and Dauenhauer will come up with a flavor concept and make just enough to last a weekend or two. Those 60-gallon batches are called “fleeting flavors.”

For the first half of this summer, Sweet Peaks is offering six special “mountain-inspired” flavors that are sure to please. Sweet Peaks’ Pine and Chocolate flavor features chocolate ice cream infused with pine extract and needles from a local pine tree to give it a pleasant, surprising finish. Nothing says summer like a s’more, and the Caramel S’mores ice cream is sure to bring back warm memories. It features caramel sauce from King’s Cupboard in Red Lodge, marshmallows and house-smoked graham crackers.

Trail Treat is your favorite trail mix turned into ice cream, including salted peanuts, chocolate candies, raisins and almonds mixed into locally harvested Wustner Brothers honey. Gravel Road is a tribute to the gravel roads that crisscross Northwest Montana, with coffee from Treeline Coffee Company in Bozeman as the main ingredient, along with cocoa nibs, shortbread cookie bits and bittersweet chocolate sauce. Blackberry and Lavender includes Washington-grown blackberries with locally harvested lavender blossoms. And Strawberry Rhubarb Sherbet includes Washington-grown rhubarb that’s cooked into a jam and then swirled into a milk-based strawberry sherbet.

Keenan says she expects the flavors to be available through early July before they are replaced with another round of mountain-inspired treats.

“It gives people a reason to come back and have something different every time,” Keenan says of the many available flavors.

The Details

Description: Six “mountain-inspired” ice cream flavors made with products from across the Pacific Northwest.

Locations:

Sweet Peaks Whitefish, 419 Third Street

Sweet Peaks Kalispell, 343 South Main Street

Sweet Peaks Bigfork (Open Memorial Day to Labor Day), 604 Electric Avenue

Sweet Peaks Whitefish City Beach, 70 Lakeside Boulevard

Also available in Missoula, Bozeman, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane

WEBSITE: sweetpeaksicecream.com