Sub Zero introduces liquid nitrogen ice cream to Beaumont

Sub Zero introduces liquid nitrogen ice cream to Beaumont

With spring underway and the blistering summer heat just around the corner, Southeast Texans will appreciate the newest tenant of the Westfield Shopping Center in Beaumont — Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt. The shop at 3939 Dowlen opened March 12.

Owner Scott Hawk knows just how unbearable the summer heat can get, being from the piney woods of Buna, himself.

“I’d come up with 10 terrible ideas for businesses, and my wife told me, ‘Don’t quit your day job,’” Scott said. But then his wife, Amber, saw Jerry and Naomi Hancock pitch their idea for making ice cream using nothing more than liquid nitrogen to “The Sharks” on ABC’s entrepreneurial reality show Shark Tank.

Amber told her husband about it.

“I said there are too many ice cream shops. It will never sell,” Scott said. “She said, ‘You’ve never seen one like this,’ and she was right.”

The night of their entrepreneurial epiphany, Scott and Amber drove all the way to San Antonio to the only Sub Zero location in Texas at the time, and slept in their car overnight until the ice cream shop opened.

“We went inside, met the owners and tried as much ice cream as we could,” he said. “We loved the product and everything about it. We said this is what we want to do.”

So how does the process work?

After choosing a size — small ($3.29), regular ($4.29) or large ($5.29) — start by choosing one of six ice cream bases: original, low-fat, custard, yogurt, lactose-free, vegan or sugar-free. Then choose from a very long list of flavors to add such as caramel, coffee, cotton candy, mint, peanut butter, pistachio and many more. Next, throw in a few mix-ins — there are 30 or so to choose from, including cheesecake bites, cookie dough, Gummy Bears, Oreo, peanut butter cups —the list goes on and on.

We opted for the low-fat blueberry cheesecake with cheesecake bites. Can you tell we love cheesecake? We also tried the original chocolate-mint with chocolate flakes. It was an amazing cup of ice cream that brought back childhood memories of eating a pint of mint chocolate chip in one sitting.

To make each unique creation, Scott and crew take the customer’s concoction and freeze it with liquid nitrogen to negative 321 degrees Fahrenheit. The cream transforms into a white cloud that evaporates away right in front of customers’ eyes, leaving behind freshly created ice cream. It all happens in about 15 seconds. 

The store goes through about 3,000 liters of liquid nitrogen in 7-10 days, Scott said, adding that they store it in the biggest tank in the Sub Zero family. It can be seen when entering the front door.

Kids love watching the process. Hillary Daigle of Silsbee and her son, 18-month-old Jaxson, tried the ice cream for the first time Thursday, March 24. Jaxson was awed by the liquid nitrogen display.

“It’s really good ice cream, and they have a lot of options,” Hillary said. Jaxson seemed to like his ice cream, too. The evidence was all over his face.

Like the founder of sub-zero, chemist Jerry Hancock, Scott and Amber are both former educators and make it a priority to teach kids about science. “We teach them about nitrogen and how we can change a liquid to a solid so fast,” Scott said. “We have portable tanks that are a fraction of the size of this one and we can travel to schools, non-profits, birthday parties or whatever.” Scott said he and Amber plan to visit Orangefield, Silsbee, and Newton schools this summer to show students their ice cream making process.

“Amber has broken down the Texas Education standards for each grade level when it comes to science, and has applied the science behind our making ice cream to that grade level,” Scott said. “We already know how to do the experiments and can bring it to the classroom. … We also do in-store displays, as well.”

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 10-11 a.m. in June, Sub Zero will be offering in-store summer science classes.

“We’ll do an hour-long science experiment and ice cream for like $10 a child,” he said.

If you are interested in registering for the classes, e-mail Scott Hawk at subzerobeaumont [at] gmail [dot] com.