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Cannery Row; Beer Milkshake

Originally posted June 2013. Recipe retested, rephotographed and post rewritten April 2020.

While he ate his sandwich and sipped his beer, a bit of conversation came back to him. Blaisedell, the poet, had said to him, “You love beer so much. I’ll bet some day you’ll go in and order a beer milkshake.” It was a simple piece of foolery but it had bothered Doc ever since. He wondered what a beer milk shake would taste like. The idea gagged him but he couldn’t let it alone. It cropped up every time he had a glass of beer. Would it curdle the milk? Would you add sugar? It was like shrimp ice cream. Once the thing got into your head you couldn’t forget it.

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Beers today have delicious sounding names like Milkshake IPA and cookies and cream milkshake IPA. Using lactose, increasing fruit additions, unfermentable sugars, together they create a creamy, full-bodied flavour, hence the inclusion of the word milkshake.

But this idea of a ‘beer milkshake’ is 75 years away from Steinbeck’s beer milkshake concept. If you were to stay authentic to his description, location and era… then yes. The idea of a beer milkshake would likely make you gag too. In the late 1930’s in California, having just come out of prohibition, pale ales/ pale lager were the norm, with the likes of Ballintine, Burke Ale and Foxhead the top American beers at the time.

If you were to pour one into a milkshake, the question’s Doc asks himself are reasonable. Would beer curdle the milk from acidity? Would you add sugar?

But a beer milkshake is not only possible but is delicious— you just need the right beer. And for that, a good quality stout is your starting point.

To either make this drink go further or to serve as samplers as a party, blend up this recipe for beer milkshake. Since each drink makes 500 mL, pour the milkshake into sampler sizes for two-four people.

Published in 1945 by John Steinbeck, Cannery Row turns 75 years old in 2020.


Cannery Row; Beer Milkshake

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  • Author: Bryton Taylor



1 cup good-quality chocolate ice cream

3/4 cup stout

1/4 cup milk


Blend the ice cream, stout and milk together.


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