The brewpubs have not had the fallback of mass can distribution alleviating at least some of the financial strain during the pandemic of 2020, so finding uplifting moments has been a bit of a chore for many of them. Quarter Celtic is one of those brewpubs, enduring the tough ups and downs of having limited occupancy when the vast majority of its sales come from onsite dining and drinking.
Then along came a bright spot — actually, make that two — in the blink of a virtual eye when the online-only edition of the Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony called Quarter Celtic’s name twice last Friday evening.
“Well, we were brewing, so I was popping in and out from when we were cleaning,” head brewer/co-owner Brady McKeown said. “But, I made sure to hit our categories.”
“Yeah, it was fast,” assistant brewer Brendan Pecorella said.
“They should do that all the time,” McKeown added.
Well, it was a bit unusual, but that tends to be par for the course in 2020. Not having brewers on stage at the amphitheater in the Denver Convention Center, bumping fists with Charlie Papazian, certainly helps move things along more quickly.
“I did enjoy how quick it was and it was in order, which doesn’t happen, where they save the most popular ones (IPA and Juicy/Hazy IPA) to keep people in the room,” Pecorella said. “I kind of enjoyed that. After doing wort production and doing the first part of brew day, I got to sit and relax and have a beer and watch it. It was cool for me to experience it.”
The first major category for just about everyone in New Mexico was number 36, International Pilsner, with four local breweries entered.
“We had the first category, International (Pilsner), and it came and went and we didn’t win anything,” Pecorella said. “But, not soon after that, it was the Dortmunder category (number 42). It shocked me. I’ll never forget it.”
The Prince of Dortness won a silver medal in that Dortmunder category, just as a brewer at Marble happened to predict beforehand.
“I got a text from Josh (Trujillo) with him telling me it would win,” McKeown said. “He did, he picked it. I totally got to give him a shout-out. We were trying all sorts of different lager styles, but the beer he got a medal for, Thunder from Dortmunder, was the inspiration for that beer. I totally give him and the guys over at Marble all the props.”
The good times did not end there, as Quarter Celtic won a second silver medal for Crimson Lass in the Irish-Style Red Ale category. While Dortness is a seasonal/specialty brew, Crimson Lass is on year-round at both QC taprooms.
“That’s why we started re-entering it (after) a couple contests where there were comments that it wasn’t true to style, those silly comments every so often you get,” McKeown said. “Those had us thinking maybe we’ll try other beers, lots of seasonals. Every so often you really like one and hold it back for competition. But, I think it’s also smart to enter house beers. Those are the ones that people recognize, they remember. Anything else that can show year-round you do a good job, this was the first competition where we sort of have this philosophy where we have to enter house beers, too.”
Getting a medal for a house beer is always nice, but anyone who knows brewers these days is aware of the fact that lagers, whether on a limited run or forever on tap, tend to be their personal favorites to brew and drink. In an odd way, the pandemic has actually been a bit beneficial for that. Pecorella said they would have probably run out of The Prince of Dortness on draft and not had enough to submit to GABF.
“We always try to have a couple (lagers) on, but now it’s really afforded us the chance to really try a lot of lager styles,” McKeown said. “That’s fun for me. Hazy, it doesn’t matter what you call it or what hops are in it, it’s going to sell right away. For my partners it’s really important. But, it’s fun if you take yourself out of the whole financial scenario to try lagers. It’s such a technique-driven beer, for those of us that like to hone in on those (details).”
Quarter Celtic will have more lagers on draft soon, including a Czech dark lager by this weekend, and a Bohemian pilsner soon after that. Hey, if something good comes out of this entire mess of a year, more lagers on tap is one tiny bright spot for the rest of us, just like winnings medals can be for our breweries.
A big thanks to Brady and Brendan for the interview and a pint of Dortness. We will have a lot more on Quarter Celtic, and all of the other breweries, when our Look Back/Look Ahead Series returns next month.
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