The cult section of the literary world

Thirsty Thursday: Kaleidoscope Collaboration Ale

by Ross E. Lockhart

Like you, I’ve been watching the media circus surrounding Patrick Wensink’s Broken Piano for President and the world’s friendliest cease-and-desist letter. It’s been amazing watching a Bizarro title climb to the top of’s rankings, peaking just below the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (Note to Patrick: Next time, don’t forget to include ben wa balls in the book), not to mention the positive coverage in places like Boing Boing, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Time Magazine.

Of course, my takeaway from all of this, based on comments left on these various news sites, is a realization that readers don’t understand the collaborative nature of publishing. It seems a solid majority of the readers out there think Patrick not only wrote the book, but came up with the cover as well. This just ain’t true.

Just like rock and roll, publishing is collaboration. Sure, there are one-man-bands like The Slow Poisoner, Andrew Goldfarb, but those are the exception, rather than the rule. You want a decent rock and roll band, you’re going to need a few co-conspirators. You play guitar and sing? Great. But to get a really full sound, you’re going to need at least a rhythm section: drums and bass. But you may need even more: stunt guitar for the wheedly-deedilies, keyboards to add a touch of warmth, background singers, horn section, somebody to run the mixing board, somebody else to sell T-shirts in the lobby.

And publishing is the same thing. The writer writes the book. The editor makes the book better, stronger. But it doesn’t stop there. Somebody has to lay the book out. Somebody has to come up with cover art. Somebody has to come up with cover design. Somebody has to market the book. Somebody has to publicize the book. Somebody has to pay these experts to do their jobs. And perhaps the most important collaborator of all? You, the reader, who buys the book and tells their friends about it.

In small press, most of the time, one person wears multiple hats. But we can’t go it alone. We collaborate. And that’s how we make art.

So tonight, in that spirit of collaboration, I’m knocking back a Kaleidoscope Collaboration Ale, from Devil’s Canyon Brewery, the result of an alliance between nine different brewers (Triple Voodoo, Pacific Brew Labs, High Water Brewing, Golden Mongoose, Phat Matt’s, Two Monkeys, MyBucha, Red Cup Lager, & Devil’s Canyon). Kaleidoscope is a black IPA with a few surprises, including a touch of green and black tea added to the mash.

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Kaleidoscope Collaboration Ale pours a deep brown-black with just a touch of ruby red, and a thick old-piano-key colored head that leaves sticky clumps of lace all over the glass. Sweet, smoky malts on the nose, with aspects of citrus and pine hops, fresh-ground coffee, and chocolate. Chocolate and coffee on the tongue, with a big and bold initial bitterness. Smoky malts emerge as it warms. A touch of pepper, a touch of citrus, and a touch of herbal tea all linger on the palate. The tea is strange at first, but works, making this an unexpected summer cooler. Medium body, with tingly carbonation. Sweet, fruity, malty finish. Refreshing.

Just one recommended pairing this week, and you probably already guessed what it is.

Broken Piano for President by Patrick Wensink. “The greatest political allegory since Animal Farm, written by the most fantastic-smelling author of our time.” A wryly-funny rock-and-roll novel tackling cheeseburgers, assassinations, marketing, and the collapse of the American Dream, Broken Piano for President is a laugh-out-loud funny, provocative novel. Crack one open and enjoy the hell out of this one.

Ross E. Lockhart is the managing editor of Night Shade Books. A lifelong fan of supernatural, fantastic, speculative, and weird fiction, he holds degrees in English from Sonoma State University (BA) and San Francisco State University (MA). In 2011, he edited the acclaimed anthology The Book of Cthulhu. A follow-up, The Book of Cthulhu II is coming October 2012 from Night Shade Books, and his rock-and-roll novel, Chick Bassist, is coming this winter from Lazy Fascist Press. He lives in an old church in Petaluma, CA, with his wife Jennifer, hundreds of books, and Elinor, who is fitting in nicely. Visit him online at

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