Beer can make everything better, including postponed pub dates and canceled book tours—at least Sam Weller thinks so. Weller, the Chicago-based authorized biographer of Ray Bradbury (Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, 2017), and a former PW Midwest correspondent, was all set to embark upon a 10-city international tour for his debut collection of 20 modern Gothic horror stories, Dark Black (Hat & Beard Press) when the pub date was pushed back from May to July and then again to September 20 and the tour canceled – although Weller ended up making some virtual appearances at some of the previously scheduled stops. No in-store appearances have been scheduled -- or re-scheduled to date.
The book’s marketing campaign was not completely scrapped, thanks to Hop Butcher For the World. Even before the pandemic hit, the Chicago craft brewery had agreed to partner with Hat & Beard in Los Angeles on a cross-promotion of Hop Butcher’s product and Weller’s book throughout the Chicagoland metro area by crafting a beer commemorating Dark Black’s release.
Hop Butcher’s Dark Black is an Imperial Stout brewed with maple, cocoa, and sea salt. Approximately 350 cases of beer have been canned this week and are now available for sale in Chicagoland. The beers will be sold in four-packs of tall boy cans.
“Allow stout to assuage the feel of fear in your bones,” a Hop Butcher advertisement for the beer declares. The label on every 16-ounce can features the book jacket art, along with Hat & Beard’s website address for drinkers to order signed copies directly from the publisher at a discount.
According to Jeremiah Zimmer, Hop Butcher owner, he was immediately receptive to partnering with Hat & Beard Press because of the brewery’s ongoing relationship with the book’s illustrator, Dan Grzeca—who created an original image to accompany each story in Dark Black. Grzeca, a Chicago-based artist, created all of Hop Butcher’s beer cans and labels. The beer labels can only be described as colorful, irreverent, and exuberant, some of them reminiscent of Grateful Dead album covers.
“[Grzeca] had clued us in on what he was up to with Sam,” Zimmer wrote in an email, “And knowing how important this was to Dan, we immediately started talking about lining up a beer to accompany the release of the book.”
J.C. Gabel, Hat & Beard's publisher, insisted that Grzeca was indispensable in envisioning both the story collection's design and the beer's aromas, writing in an email, "Dan was the perfect visual artist counterpart for Sam Weller's first short story collection, and our first title for our literary imprint, Hat & Beard Editions. Once we settled in on the Day of the Dead-inspired cover, a nod to Malcolm Lowry's famous novel Under the Volcano, Grzeca had the vision for the beer. The title Dark Black seemed to almost predict deeply rich, pourable stout, which is what Jeremiah at Hop Butcher created."
"The beer is the perfect companion to the title story in Dark Black," Weller noted in an email to PW after he picked up several cases of the beer at Hop Butcher on Thursday afternoon. "Set in the cold north Atlantic, the story follows a retired marine biologist who is convinced he saw the mythic sea-beast, the Kraken, when he was a young man. The beer has strong notes of maple and sea salt, ingredients perfectly suited to an oceanic tale. Hop Butcher makes some of the most artful beers around, and this one is a great addition to their arsenal. It is sweet, velvety and has a real kick."