Good Beer Hunting

Feb 23, 2018 (Chicago) — Uppers & Downers Charity Beer Dinner



With each passing year, our U&D relationships get stronger and our ambitions get higher. This year we grew our flagship fest into a week-long series of events around the city. For our most challenging endeavor, we decided to host a five-course, sit-down dinner for nearly 100 people at Thalia Hall. In our event space. The night before the event.

But the fest gets easier to set up every time we do it. We know the layout, we know where to hang the signs, and we know that we always need more helping hands than we originally think we do. This year we were confident that we could get it all set up (and staged for a full seated dinner) by 7p on the night before the fest.

Racing around all day, the fervor of screwing down tabletops and solving problems, slowed into a quiet and calm space. Walk around, take it in. Take a picture. Take a breath. Welcome guests—we’re ready to go.

As guests filed in, they were presented with a far-too-drinkable beer cocktail—Dusek’s Cooler #2, made with Powers Irish Whiskey, Becherovka, Burial Shadowclock Pils, Lemon, Orgeat, and Orange Blossom Water. Chefs were furiously prepping in the back, and as guests found their seats, the first course was brought out.

Jason Hammel, of Lula Cafe and Marisol, prepared a winter salad with charred fennel vinaigrette, furikake, and tender greens. This bright, light salad was paired with Jealousy & Murder, a Mixed Culture Saison made with NC Barley and Spelt, hopped with Saphir hops and aged with brettanomyces and lactobacillus, from Burial Beer Co. out of Asheville, NC.

For the second course, we got the tightest collaboration of the evening, since both the brewery and chef are under the Frontera Hospitality group. Andres Padilla, culinary director for Frontera, presented guests with a gorgeous Octopus Pibil Taco. Achiote-marinaded Gullo Spanish octopus, silky black beans (with squid ink), pickled onions, and habanero salsa on an inky tortilla. The taco was paired with a Corn Grisette from Cruz Blanca Brewery. A mix culture table strength saison, it was made of 100% Indiana grown and malted corn from Sugar Creek Malt.

The third course was a cool pairing of duck and a barrel-aged sour. Kevin Hickey, chef and owner of Duck Inn, presented the crowd with a duck breast, naturally. With umeboshi, parsnip, and green strawberries, it paired really well with the tart Plum Sour from 4 Hands Brewing Co. An American sour aged in red wine barrels on a blend of plums, the fruit complemented Hickey’s interpretation.

Michael Galen (Executive Chef, Dusek’s Board & Beer) partnered with our friends from Brewery Bhavana for the fourth course. Berkshire pork belly with lengua baked beans, green coriander, and fennel jam, alongside Till—Bhavana’s bright and tangy farmhouse ale. The soft brightness of Till was a great counterpoint to the richness of the pork.

The fifth, and final, course was dessert. A Tres Leches cake, by the legendary Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate fame, was partnered with 200th Anniversary Stout from Guinness. The stout, utilizing Black Patent Malt (precursor to roasted barley), with notes of toffee and sweet chocolate, was paired with the dark muscavado sugar cake, vanilla halava ganache, and sour milk chocolate tres leches. It all married together into a perfect finishing course.

Instead of a coffee course, we finished the night with No Chill from Prairie Artisan Ales. A Milk Stout with a a double shot of coffee (washed Mexico Mariachi), we sent our guests into the night with a slight Uppers & Downers buzz—ready to pick back up in the morning. 

This beer dinner was a chance for us to celebrate all the hard work of the fest, in a rich and connected way—sitting down to dinner with a lot of our partners and collaborators, team members and friends. It was also a chance to give back. Profits from the event benefitted the Pilsen Wellness Pantry.

It’s hard to describe the honor of having such amazing chefs and brewers collaborate with us. They give us their time and talent, with no direct reward or compensation. They do it because they love sharing their passion and they love giving back. I hope it gives them a chance to stretch, try new things, meet contemporaries from around the city and nation, and grow their businesses. It certainly inspires us and makes us want to do more. 

Thanks to everyone who came to this awesome inaugural event—and thanks to our chefs, brewers, and partners.


Photos from the 2108 Chicago festival

photos by Stephanie Byce