Good Beer Hunting, a popular online beer culture digest and brand consultancy, have teamed with our partners at Intelligentsia Coffee for a series of beer + coffee events, dubbed “Uppers + Downers”—we reported on the first such event in the fall of 2013. This year, Uppers + Downers is back again for its biggest event ever, a veritable festival of coffee beers happening January 25th at Chicago’s historic Thalia Hall. The event brings together some of America’s premiere craft breweries—we’re talking Off Color Brewing, Solemn Oath Brewing, Penrose Brewing, Goose Island Beer Company, 4 Hands Brewing Company, Forbidden Root, and many more—alongside some of the best roasters in the country, including Intelligentsia, Madcap Coffee, Sump Coffee, Dark Matter, Counter Culture Coffee, and Gaslight Coffee.
A cavalcade of brands, beers, ciders and surprises (including music curated by the tastemakers at Sound Opinions), Uppers + Downers is an opportunity to glimpse the very bleeding edge of coffee & beer collaborations, featuring several one-off brews from top brewers available only at this event. Yes, there will be the coffee porters & stouts you’ve likely tried—GBH has rounded up classic entries in the style—but there’s much more afoot, from cascara ciders to funky sour beers paired with natural coffees to elegant, complex IPAs that boast intricate coffee-tinged acidity.
To learn more, Sprudge co-founder Jordan Michelman sat down digitally with Good Beer Hunting founder Michael Kiser for an informal chat on what to expect on January 25th. Michelman, the lucky duck that he is, will be attending the event and providing coverage for Sprudge.
How many Uppers + Downers is this?
Well there was that first Pasadena event, but we’ve also done a number of home brewer events over the last year. This is the first festival we’ve done.
Tell me more about Thalia Hall, where the event is happening in Chicago.
I was so inspired to use this space. It’s this beautiful old theater building in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood; we have a lot of these in Chicago but often there’s no money to rehab them. The people who bought Thalia also own Dusek’s, which is connected to Punch House downstairs, which is connected to a larger building which is residential and storefronts…they really had this whole holistic model to renovate this thing. So now at Thalia Hall, they’re holding rock shows there, as well as events—this is really the first thing they’ve done in the festival format. I’m really excited that Thalia Hall has come onboard with us as partners for this event; we’re not just renting the space.
Talk to me about the festival format, and what people can expect?
You’ll get sample tickets with entry, similar to other beer festivals, and this is because of legal reasons. But I’ve never heard of anything this specific before; it’s literally all coffee beers, and we’re going to have a multiroaster espresso bar, featuring six different roasters, complementing those beers. Anybody that knows coffee knows that this is something that doesn’t happen, and I’m very excited for that.
How many breweries total are participating?
13 breweries total, and we’ll have something like 25 beers in all. Some breweries are bringing multiple beers, and many of those will be brewers doing one-offs. People who know beer, and understand how brewing works, will understand how rare it is to get breweries to do something like that.
Talk to us about what to expect from the beers, and this event.
There are some world class coffee porters and stouts out there, but most are just ok. I’ve been complaining for a while that brewers don’t care about coffee the way they want consumers to care about beer. So that’s where some of the original ideas behind this event came from. So much of what matters to third wave coffee is fruit notes, acids, some of the funk in the natural stuff. This is something that brewers talk about really well in the brewing palate, but not when they think about coffee.
So we’ll see beers like a Berliner Weisse made with cascara, or a saison made with coffee from Intelligentsia—we’ll be exploring beers that fall into the “light bright” category. Coffee beers like this are so new and exciting, and that was the sentiment that really drove this event from the beginning.
As for the event, I see Good Beer Hunting as a platform for synthesizing, and Uppers + Downers as a way of bringing the beer and coffee world together at a high level. There’s going to be roasters at this coffee bar that don’t even like each other that much, but it means a lot to me that they’ll be all at the same event because they believe in it.