Note: This interview was conducted before the full effects of the Coronavirus hit New Mexico breweries. We are still posting it in its original state, minus everything about the anniversary party that did not end up happening over the weekend. As QC and other breweries are still open, we are still going to write about them and support them anyway we can, as many of their employees live in fear of a loss of employment and income in the coming weeks. They need your support, too, as long as it is safe for you to go there.
The past year for the staff at Quarter Celtic was so busy, what with opening the first offsite taproom and all, that it almost seemed like there was no fun to be had. Well, sure, there was still the beers and the food and the live music, but we all missed those wonderful YouTube videos and other moments of goofiness that shows how much fun making beer can really be for everyone involved.
Thankfully, I found out from owners Ror McKeown and Brady McKeown, who is also head brewer, that the fun will be coming back this year as we sat down for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series interview.
“It was an interesting year,” Ror said of 2019. “It was nice, we got the taproom open. That took a little longer to get open than we wanted, but it’s going. That neighborhood is embracing us. We’re fortunate in both locations that people have adopted us.
“(But) I miss hanging out with my bestie. Besides Brady being my brother, he’s also my best friend, but now that I’m up at the Deuce and he’s down here at QC O.G., we only see each other when he delivers beer or I need to run something down. I miss hanging out with him 24/7. Now that that’s open we’re going to try to spend more time together and come up with some fun things.”
The opening of the taproom at 1930 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE was the big focus of 2019.
“With two locations, (it is all about) just logistics and production,” Ror said. “The Heights is getting busier month over month. We’re getting more beer heading up that way every week. It’s going in the right direction.”
With two locations to supply with beer, Brady had to cut back on one aspect of the business.
“We’re not really looking to grow,” he said. “We’ve stopped our wholesale program, just because the taproom is taking all the extra capacity. Which is fine, we can just focus on making beers, improving the beers, which is nice.”
Since this interview, we were sad to see the anniversary party had to be canceled, and further restrictions have been imposed on all breweries. Still, we wanted to share our favorite Ror quote from the interview, which also likely shows how much of a financial blow it was to have the party canceled.
“Currently, the original location is having its four-year anniversary this Saturday the 14th,” Ror said. “Before we start, I just want to apologize for putting Icelandic haddock and the cow on the endangered list. Last year, we did 1,200 pounds of each. Which is just insane. I expect probably the same this year.”
The two anniversary beers were still put on tap over the weekend.
“We’ve got our two special beers, one coming out of the cellar, which will be the (Irish Handcuffs Imperial Stout),” Ror said. “We’ve got a new imperial red, which I’m looking forward to. The imperial red is going to be the first in the series to come from the (Ror’s) Tap 10 Series. The joke is, when we opened the Heights we have the taps numbered one through 12. When we opened tap 10 was the Cuffs, so I only drank from that. Then it was the Kill or be Kilt went on 10. Then The Winchester hit tap 10. The staff said you’re only drinking tap 10.”
Brady said the series will be an easy way for customers to know what is the high alcohol beer on tap.
“Last year was really focused on getting the taproom going and just maintaining the brewery,” Ror said. “This year Brady is more focused on competitions and getting our beer back out there. Have a little more fun.”
Quarter Celtic already picked up three medals at the Best of Craft Beer Awards, was named the New Mexico brewery of the year at the New York International Beer Festival for the second time, and just canned its beers that will head to the World Beer Cup. The winners for that will be announced at the conclusion of the Craft Brewers Conference on April 22. (UPDATE: Both CBC and the WBC have been canceled. Damn it.)
Ror said there will be major construction projects for Quarter Celtic in 2020, but the brewpub will benefit from the opening of another brewery on the Westside.
“Our partner David (Facey), the director of brewing operations at Sobremesa way, way out there, we’re looking forward to doing some collaborations with him,” Ror said. “We’re also excited because we can do some ingredient sharing. He’s going to carry a couple different yeast strains. We can go back and forth. When we do a one-off special we don’t have to dump the yeast. That should be a little more cost conscious for each of us.”
Quarter Celtic will have its annual Mini Cask Fest during Albuquerque Beer Week in late May, and Brady said he is looking for some small pins to put on the bar at some point, giving him another way to experiment with small batches of beer.
“Other than that, we’re focusing this year on getting the two locations healthy and strong,” Ror said. “The neighborhoods are really supporting us. We’re appreciative for all of our customers for here and the Heights. Once things settle down I hope to sit down with Brady and get back to shenanigans, making videos, doing goofy stuff. I had to work this last year, it was interesting. But, we got it done, so now we can get back to having fun.
“Looking forward, we’re just concentrating on us this year. In years forward, they allow us three taprooms. We get requests from customers as to where they’d like to see us.”
Whether that is further north in the Heights, or on the Westside, we feel that the world can certainly use a little more Quarter Celtic. Until then, we will be content with our weekly gatherings at the O.G. location at Lomas and San Mateo.
A big thanks to Brady and Ror for the interview. We wish them luck going forward in this time of tremendous uncertainty.