Stephen Morrisey of Intelligentsia Coffee on Coffee Beer + Uppers and Downers

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Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 6:16 AM

click to enlarge Uppers and downers - LYDIA CHAIN
  • Lydia Chain
  • Uppers and downers
Sure there were coffee roasters in L.A. before Chicago's Intelligentsia moved in, but no one has pushed forth with experiments into the presentation and culture of specialty coffee as much as these adopted locals. With three locations across L.A. in six years, the third-wave roasting pioneers have tasked themselves with spreading and furthering the craft coffee gospel -- even if it means talking beer.

Next weekend, the Intelligentsia in Pasadena (which also has an alcohol license) will be hosting a one-of-a-kind event centered around the growing combinations of coffee and craft beer and the ways in which booze and caffeine are working together to create new culinary intersections.

Spearheaded by Intelligentsia's Marketing and Communications Director Stephen Morrisey and his good buddy Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting, the event -- called "Uppers and Downers" -- will showcase brewers from some of the Midwest's most famous names (think 3 Floyds and Goose Island) in a roundtable discussion with some of Southern California's local coffee beer creators.

Beers with a jolt by Eagle Rock, Angel City and Stone Brewing will all be on tap as well as a special version of Firestone Walker's Parabola made with Intelligentsia coffee called Parabajava. The goal after the event is to always have beers made with coffee available (whether they're made with Intelligentsia or not), and turn the Pasadena location into the brick-and-mortar home to the trend where they can showcase what other breweries are doing around the country.

Morrissey, a major craft beer fan himself, calls it "the morning one and the evening one --we're just passing along the dopamine."

click to enlarge uppersanddowners.jpg
Squid Ink: Are you the resident beer geek at Intelligentsia?

Stephen Morrisey: I'm Irish and when I moved here four years ago for Intelligentsia, people thought I would know about beer. But in Ireland, everyone drinks the American macro lagers so when I came to the States, craft beer was very new to me. Let's just say I got a crash course where I tried to familiarize myself with beer.

SI: And the Goose Island Brewery is right next to your roaster in Chicago, right?

SM: Yeah, the impetus for the event was us seeing the coffee version of Bourbon County and then you also have Dark Lord from 3 Floyds out here as well. These two beers are known throughout the country and both have intelligentsia coffee. We became conscious that this trend is mounting more and more.

I feel like every new craft roaster seems to be pairing with a craft brewery and playing with these things. It sparked some interest in my friend Michael Kiser, who runs Good Beer Hunting, and we wondered, "Is this some novelty treatment of coffee in the same way people use coriander or grapefruit rind?" We think it's something more culinary with more opportunities. We wanted to have a discussion to bring beers together and bring brewers together and have a discussion.

SI: Was L.A. chosen because of the Pasadena location?

SM: It's because we have a location that's perfect for it. We have a coffee shop that is also a bar. Also because of those two beers especially: It's a rarity to get them outside of Illinois and Indiana, so it's a novelty to bring them to an L.A. audience.

SI: It's also a novelty to hold a discussion about coffee beer.

SM: Yeah, the two I mentioned -- Dark Lord and Bourbon County -- are both stouts. You don't see an awful lot of people playing with IPAs or lagers or witbiers and using more floral coffees and finding ways of highlighting those qualities. We've worked with Eagle Rock since we came out to L.A. And so their goal from the beginning has been not just use the roasty coffee flavor, but to highlight the inherent flavors of the coffee and pair that with the beer. We're looking to find more people doing these types of things. I don't think we have a sense there's a certain answer to this, but more that it deserves discussion.

SI: Do you see the specialty coffee trend growing alongside craft beer? Are the two similar movements in the eyes of coffee people?

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