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An Uppers & Downers Recap

Uppers & Downers reminds us once again about what an amazing community of brewers and roasters Chicago has. The event last weekend at Thalia Hall was an incredible opportunity to meet new folks, reconnect with old friends, and drink a lot of different beverages.  

Upon walking in, the smell of freshly ground coffee emanates from the row of espresso machines to the right. Metric brought the Kenyan Muthunzuuni Peaberry and had the pleasure of pulling on a La Marzocco GS3 Auto-Volumetric. The lighter bodied, tropical notes of the coffee came through consistently beautifully on this machine. 

Across the hall at the foot of the stage were shoulder-to-shoulder brewers ready to showcase their coffee-beers. The people behind the bar were just as excited as the folks on the other side. Glasses were filled often and generously as everyone sampled the variety of interpretations that coffee-beer has inspired. From ultra-coffee-ish stouts, to coffee IPAs, to brews like the Metric-Maplewood collaboration. Maplewood's Bam Bam was a red ale infused with cold brew; meanwhile, the Meow Meow was a one-off project featuring a golden ale that interacted with crushed Ethiopian coffee and then sat on raspberries for color and a pleasant fruity tartness. Our collaboration with Off Color Brewing resulted in a well-balanced farmhouse ale incorporating our Ethiopian Hambela Genet, and we also had the pleasure of One Trick Pony using Metric's Gypsy Blood Espresso to create a kettle-soured Belgian farmhouse ale. Each sip showed a different way of thinking about coffee-beer. This event unites two industries with such vastly different methods and histories united by an intense love of balance, flavor, and nuance, and gives them both a reason to get together to make something uniquely wonderful. 

In the middle of this beautiful space, there was an ocean of beverage-lovers from all over the nation. From seeing regulars from Metric West Fulton, to meeting the co-founder of Sprudge, to simply realizing how many people are out there who want to experience this enigmatic and expanding world of craft and collaboration--to be a part of Uppers & Downers was a learning opportunity, a social event, and an unforgettable experience.
It was honor to pour alongside some innovators in our field, and to share our craft with good people who love coffee and beer as much as we do. We thank everyone who supported Metric along the way, and particularly thank the show runners Good Beer Hunting, La Marzocco, and our partners who incorporated our coffee into their brews: Maplewood Brewing and Distillery, Off Color Brewing, and One Trick Pony. 
We look forward to meeting up again next year. 

Coffee Beer Magic Time: A Conversation with Maplewood Brewery and Distillery

“You’ve gotta follow your own path.’”

Adam Smith, Brand Manager at Maplewood Brewery and Distillery

Listen, we love beverages. Even recognizing that this statement can sound either bland or psychotic, we stand by it. Truly, we love ‘em.  There is something a little thrilling to us in tasting new flavors and in sampling some of our old favorites. For us over at Metric, Maplewood Brewing and Distillery represents the best in both novel and traditional beverages. Specifically, beer and liquor. As Uppers & Downers inches closer (February 25! Get tickets in advance!), we are excited to highlight and discuss our collaboration with Maplewood via two very unique coffee-beers that will be featured in the event: the Guatemalan Bam Bam, and the Apocalypse Meow Meow.

The coffee-beer movement is a relatively new one. One of the reasons we are happy to be partnered with Maplewood is because they are just as keen to innovate, explore, and discover new ways to express the idea of coffee-beer. Brewed with Chinook, Cascade, and Mosaic hops, the Guatemalan Bam Bam balances ideals of lighter roast coffee in a lighter beer.

“With the Bam Bam, the idea for us was to do something unexpected, and to really bring out a different side of the coffee,” says Adam. “We wanted something lighter. Something that would really bring the coffee out, but you would still have aspects of the base beer. The red ale does have that light roast, and you do get the fruitiness of the hops in there. It’s such a perfect marriage. It all comes together as one, really nice beer.”


The other beer is the Apocalypse Meow Meow—a name that obliquely echoes the Bam Bam and alludes to a movie most people have heard of, but mostly means nothing at all. For this brew, a golden ale will be processed with oats and lactose sugars, Metric’s Natural Ethiopian beans, and fresh raspberries. This full-bodied light ale will actually sit on the fruit in order to extract the bright and delicious juices, with the coffee providing aromatics and mild floral, sweet flavors. This small batch won’t be around very long, but will be a must-taste during the second session of Uppers & Downers.

Maplewood Brewery and Distillery, at just two years in and with a grand total of four employees (including the two owners), is already finding more-than-solid footing in Chicago’s beer scene. They are located at 2717 N. Maplewood in Logan Square, and have been making their way onto menus and into stores across the city. One of their beers, the American Pale Ale titled “Charlatan” has been selling faster than it can be brewed. And while many brewers would stop there, it’s clear that folks over at Maplewood have no intention of limiting their ambition.

“We’re humbled and happy,” says Adam, before launching into the plans taproom, which will be opening in the very near future. “We want to be open all the time. People can come in on their laptop and just chill. We’ll have coffee, we’ll have beer, we’ll have booze, and some mixed drinks.” Food trucks, late nights, tours, tastings, and more are on the docket as well.

Coffee, beer, and coffee-beer are ever-changing concepts. Pushing forward isn’t always easy, but when driven by passion, it can at least be fun. It’s the difference between saying “I don’t know,” and “Let’s find out.” The folks over at Maplewood focus on the possible. Their sense of adventure is wholly intact, and their sense of quality is relentlessly in tune. The best part about doing what you love is that you get to truly forge your own path in the world—and that’s an ideal that seems to unite Metric and Maplewood outside of coffee and beer. Keep an ear out for Maplewood’s taproom opening, and pick up a brew the moment you get the chance. In the meantime, bottoms up, cheers, skål, cin cin and meow meow. We’ll see you at Uppers & Downers, and anywhere in between.