How (and why) to mix beer and ice cream

I am done* with my book on burnout. (* not actually done)

On Tuesday morning, I sent the finished manuscript of my book on burnout to the publisher. It’s 74,000 words, counting the 438 footnotes. I printed it out, all 250 pages. It looks like a book manuscript. Hooray!

The thing is, it isn’t really finished. It will go before University of California Press’s editorial committee soon, and they will give an official thumbs-up/down on it. I will then have another chance to make some revisions, then send it back, and then some time later take one last look to check for errors. And then it will still be several more months before it’s published. I have more work to do.

Granted, much more of the work is on the publisher’s shoulders than mine. I have, in a legal sense, upheld my end of the bargain. They will now uphold theirs: getting what I’ve written in a publishable format, designing the book, getting it under copyright, paying for it to be printed, shipping it to sellers, and advertising it. I will need to do a lot to promote it, too, including writing short essays around the time it comes out late next year. I’m done writing the book, but I’m not truly done with the work of the book.

Because the book isn’t “done,” I haven’t gone wild celebrating this milestone. Or the previous milestones of getting the contract, writing the first draft, writing the second draft, revising that and sending it to the publisher, and then revising two more times over the last few months. Many steps go into writing a book, and the lack of finality at all of these points means it isn’t clear when is the point to mark the accomplishment. Do I celebrate after the board (I hope) gives it the green light? After the next round of revisions? After I send back galley proofs? Or do I wait until it’s really published, out in the world?

There’s a case to be made for celebrating all of these points (and friends have encouraged me to do so). And in small ways, I have. I marked the latest deadline by making myself a beer float: yes, ice cream floating in beer.

I know you think that sounds horrible. Ice cream: sweet and rich! Beer: thin and bitter. The two tastes could not be more different! Ice cream and steak make more sense together.

Even one of my favorite things I read all year, a short essay by Tom McAllister (scroll down to the third essay on the page) about drinking and (not) belonging at a festival in his home town in New Jersey, shares the view that these two tastes do not go together:

I ended up drinking five or six beers despite having told myself that I wouldn’t have any, and we stayed until 9:30 because my wife’s brother showed up with his wife and kids, and then we met our one other friend by the Blue Lives Matter tent. I ate a meatball sandwich and petted several friendly dogs. I regretted not getting ice cream, but the fuzzy mental calculations I conducted told me that you can’t indulge in both beer and ice cream at the same time.

But McAllister miscalculated. Sure, the best ice cream floating in a Pilsner Urquell (my favorite beer) would be horrible. But ice cream in a malty porter or stout? Marvelous. The key thing is, you need a beer that will match the ice cream. Something sweet and heavy. That usually also means high ABV, though not a double IPA or something hoppy like that. Go for something dark, but not Guinness, which as a dry stout is not sweet or strong enough. (You hear a lot of people who don’t know anything say around St. Paddy’s Day that Guinness is a strong beer, will mess you up, etc. It won’t. It’s one of the tamest beers on the market, clocking in at 4.2% alcohol, the same as Michelob Ultra.)

This week, I floated Trader Joe’s green tea matcha ice cream in Lakewood Temptress, a local milk stout. (Important: you have to put the ice cream in after the beer, or else everything will foam uncontrollably!) Great combo. It’s pretty similar to the first beer float I ever had, at a burger and ice cream place in Los Angeles called Golden State. I got a green tea ice cream in Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Damn, that was good. My life was good. I was on vacation in the greatest American city, at the tail end of my sabbatical year. I have a picture of myself from that moment: it’s a scene of utter contentment.

Over the next couple years, I started drinking beer floats to make me feel better while my job as a college professor began to wear me down. I often went for higher-end ice cream, like Talenti, and dropped it in a glass of equally-pricey Brother Thelonious or Founder’s Breakfast Stout. It will come as little surprise to hear that I gained 30 pounds in a matter of months.

I talk about drinking and eating my misery in the second paragraph of the book on burnout. That’s why I go back to a beer float when I want to mark progress on the book. I’m trying to recapitulate that moment in Golden State and redeem the many later moments of sadness on my couch at home.

The glass I put my latest float in reads, “Burnout Culture.” Some very kind friends gave me the glass after I sent off the second draft of the manuscript in May. It’s what I think the book is about — the system of meaning around work that we constructed and that causes our burnout — even if it isn’t necessarily what the book’s title will be. (Publishers, not authors, choose titles.) Drinking a float from that glass might be a way of connecting with that culture and overcoming it.

Thanks for reading,


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