Coffee and Beer: A Perfect Pair at Uppers and Downers This Weekend

Uppers and Downers is back for its fifth year, showcasing collaborations between breweries and coffee to push the limits of coffee beers—with a few surprises in between.


Photos courtesy of Lucy Hewett

Uppers and Downers is a festival celebrating the beautiful union between two beloved beverages: coffee and beer. Now in its fifth year, the annual festival brings together coffee roasters and beer brewers from around the country to Chicago to showcase innovative and cutting-edge collaborations. The festival is the brainchild of 2008 World Barista Champion Stephen Morrissey and Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting. Uppers and Downers goes beyond the traditional coffee and beer pairings we’re all used to seeing and pushes beer brewers to use coffee in nontraditional and new ways.

You won’t just see stouts and porters at Uppers and Downers (although you will see some tasty iterations of these classic beer-and-coffee pairings). Expect coffees to also be paired with saisons, lagers, and other unexpected beer types.

The main event doesn’t happen until Saturday, but until then fans and patrons can attend a number of lead-up events being hosted by coffee companies and breweries all across Chicago. The weeklong festival kicked off on Tuesday with an Irish Coffee Cocktail Competition, hosted by Powers Irish Whiskey and Counter Culture Coffee. Bar folks from around the city concocted their own versions of an Irish Coffee, and the winning drink will be featured at the main event on Saturday. Elsewhere in the week, look for roastery tours, chef dinners, and brewing demonstrations with the likes of Oatly, Metric Coffee Co., Intelligentsia Coffee, and Passion House Coffee Roasters.

This year, Uppers and Downers will host a series of events leading up to the festival, including roastery tours, dinners with chefs, and brewing demos.

Saturday’s main event is known as the festival of coffee beers. Coffee roasters have been paired up with beer breweries to concoct some of the most interesting brews and beverages there are. Especially exciting are the Case Studies collaborations, where brewers will be pouring special coffee beers meant to showcase a particular technique or experiment. We’re particularly excited for the Case Studies collaboration between 4 Hands Brewing Co. in St Louis and Goshen Coffee Company in Edwardsville, Ill., which will feature beers showcasing coffee using four different microlots of the same farm, brewing them using a single beer profile. 4 Hands Brewing, which is returning to its fourth Uppers and Downers, calls this “a deep dive into the nuances of terroir.” Expect to see exciting beers being poured by folks from Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, and Burial Beer Co. in Asheville, N.C., next to local Chicago favorites like Off Color Brewing and Goose Island Beer Company. A full list of breweries is available here.

An exciting part of the festival is the Case Studies collaborations, where brewers use coffees in experimental ways.

Along with providing a unique beer experience, Uppers and Downers also provides a distinctive coffee experience. Roasters such as Onyx Coffee Lab in Fayetteville, Ark., Kickapoo Coffee Roasters in Viroqua, Wis., and dozens of others will be pulling shots and serving their coffees alongside breweries. Attendees will get to taste dozens of coffees side by side and actively participate in tasting coffee comparatively. Along with tasting the winning cocktail from Tuesday’s competition, attendees will also get to sit in on educational sessions hosted by Guinness, the original nitro brewers (they were the first to use nitro for their beers), who are keen to share their expertise and insights with beer and coffee enthusiasts. Attendees will also get to try their hand at making their own coffee beers by pulling shots on espresso machines, hosted by La Marzocco.

The beer and coffee will be flowing all week in Chicago, leading up to the Uppers and Downers festival on Saturday.

We’ll be at Uppers and Downers, as well as a number of the offshoot events, all this week—stay tuned here for continued coverage. Space at Uppers and Downers is extremely limited, so get your tickets soon, and we’ll see you there!

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at