When prohibition forced the Stroh’s Brewing Company in Detroit to cease alcohol production, they had to get creative to survive as a business.
When prohibition forced the Stroh’s Brewing Company in Detroit to cease alcohol production, they had to get creative to survive as a business.

As Michiganders, we put onions on hot dogs, olives on hamburgers, and snack on Polish donuts in February. But have you ever wondered why? In our Michigan Moments: Food series, we’re checking out the history behind iconic Michigan foods and beverages. This is the 13th article of the series. Look for a new one every Wednesday!

MICHIGAN—Though it may come as a surprise to you, food from the Midwest might be considered unusual by our coastal neighbors. Midwestern cooking often combines culinary traditions from our families’ immigrant backgrounds, locally grown and produced ingredients, and the foods of Indigenous tribes.

And in Michigan especially, our home cookin’ includes provisions that were concocted, bottled, and packaged by mitten-state entrepreneurs. If you’re curious about the history of some of your favorite foods and beverages, read on to discover how Michigan history creates Michigan culture.

Superman Ice Cream

Blue Moon ice cream may be a Midwest dairy flavor mystery that sort of just tastes like “blue” to some, but Michigan’s Superman ice cream multiplies that mystery by three. It’s a triple-flavored, technicolor swirl of red and yellow, with creamy, blue cascade that reminds us of the comic book superhero.

The colors are the only constant, however.

The actual flavors of Superman ice cream vary. The blue is almost always Blue Moon, but sometimes blue raspberry. The red can be strawberry, cherry, raspberry, or something else entirely. The yellow is usually either vanilla, lemon—and less frequently, banana.

Where did this rainbow enigma come from?

Superman ice cream comes from the home one of Michigan’s biggest passions—a brewery.

When prohibition forced the Stroh’s Brewing Company in Detroit to cease alcohol production, they had to get creative to survive as a business. Owner Julius Stroh converted the beer-brewing facilities to non-alcoholic products in 1933. Among these products were the Alaska brand of ice cream products, and among those was the first Superman ice cream.

The original red flavor was actually called Redpop, and it was designed to taste like the famous strawberry-flavored Faygo, mixed along with lemon and Blue Moon flavors. Stroh’s went back to producing beer after prohibition ended, but Superman ice cream—now called Super Rainbow—stayed on.

You can find several variations of the classic Superman blend across Michigan. In fact, according to an online poll in 2019, Superman is the official favorite ice cream flavor of Michiganders.