Beer Notes: Celebrating medals instead of mourning closures

The good folks at Quarter Celtic added two more medals to their impressive 2020 total.

It seemed like a good of a time as any to clear out the small pile of beer news that has begun to assemble on our proverbial “desk.” For a change in 2020, we are leading off with some good news. If you have any news, good or bad, that needs to be shared, drop us a message via any of our social media outlets, or email us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Quarter Celtic adds two more medals to its 2020 haul

Way back in February, also known as the before times, Quarter Celtic was one of five New Mexico breweries to pick up one or more medals at the Best of Craft Beer Awards. That was just the beginning, as the brewpub added two silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival. Now, how about two more?

Over the weekend, Quarter Celtic announced that it won two medals at the Brussels Beer Challenge. The cool part was it was for two beers that did not medal at the previous competitions.

Mac Lomas Stout, a year-round offering, won a bronze medal, while Vienna Festbier won a gold medal. The latter is a seasonal, but it is currently available for crowler/growler fills from both QC locations.

All told, the brewpub won medals for Crimson Lass (gold–BCBA, silver–GABF), Prince of Dortness (silver–GABF), Dark Pedro (silver–BCBA), Pedro O’Flanagan (bronze–BCBA), and now the most recent duo. It has been a hell of a challenging year, so to see one of our local favorites get rewarded is always gratifying.

Congrats to brewers Brady McKeown and Brendan Pecorella, and everyone else at Quarter Celtic!

A Nob Hill institution fades into history

A longtime Nob Hill fixture closed its doors even before the pandemic hit in mid-March.

Back before the pandemic even began, Brew Crew member AmyO sent us a photo of some signs in the windows of Kellys Pub on Central saying it was closed. While it was never officially announced, more folks have shared images of signage up outside saying the longtime Nob Hill institution is for sale/lease.

Kellys came into existence in the mid-1990s, a block west of where it eventually ended up in 2000. The huge patio in the current location was always a popular draw. Longtime Canteen brewer Doug Cochran even got his start at Kellys before heading across Central to Il Vicino (yes, they brewed in that tiny space for many years).

Sadly, time passed Kellys by, and by the early 2010s its beer quality was noticeably lagging behind other emerging breweries like Marble and La Cumbre. There was even a controversy about the original owners taking money from their servers, one that ended up in court, with the employees emerging victorious.

Curiously, Santa Fe Dining, the company behind Blue Corn, Chama River, and more, bought Kellys and revamped the interior, modernized the beers, and changed the food menu. It was curious because the company did not seem to know how to use social media to let everyone know. Most Albuquerque residents were never aware that the venerable pub changed ownership, much less that its beer had gotten a lot better.

Right up until the point when all on-site (or even off-site at the former Chama River for a short while) brewing ceased, folks were still telling the Crew that they had no idea Kellys was under new ownership/management. Ever so quietly, it slipped from the public consciousness, until it closed without any fanfare, any controversy, any anything. One of the few brewpubs to survive the turbulent times of the late 1990s was gone, not with a bang, not even a whimper.

On a personal note, the first craft beer I ever had that was made in Albuquerque was at Kellys back around 1999. I had just covered an Arizona-New Mexico men’s basketball game (the last ever played at The Pit, but that is a whole other story) while working as the sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

Yeah, I am old, and so was Kellys. We can say its time had passed, but in a way, a piece of Albuquerque brewing history has passed, ever so quietly in the night. Perhaps some other owner will pick up the gauntlet and try to revive Kellys, but with the economy in tatters due to the pandemic, it may be a long time before anyone is able to enjoy a pint on the patio at the corner of Central and Wellesley.

Another closure is all but official

The short run of this Northeast Heights brewery is now over.

Up in the Northeast Heights, it sure looks as though a relatively young brewery suffered an early demise. Multiple readers have told us that there are now signs on the windows of the former Black Snout Brewhouse that say the property is available for lease in the shopping center on the southeast corner of Juan Tabo and Menaul.

The sports-themed brewery, owned by Josh James and his wife, opened back in the summer of 2019. It captured the neighborhood audience that Josh spoke of wanting, but apparently that was never quite enough. Original brewer Josh Olivas came and went fairly quickly, and while we certainly heard there were fans of the beers before and after his departure, there was never quite the buzz that other small breweries in Albuquerque managed to garner, even in their early days (as an example, think of how much positive vibes Gravity Bound has generated this year across social media).

We never heard much from Josh James after the pandemic hit, other than that Black Snout was shutting down temporarily. As the breweries started to partially reopen, things were quiet up there. Black Snout did not have a true patio, nor room to add a temporary one in the shopping center. It did not have a crowler machine, to the best of our knowledge, and therefore it was entirely possible that selling just growlers/growler fills was not nearly enough to justify keeping the doors open.

Like so many other small businesses, odds are Black Snout never really had a chance to get going again, never had a chance to cover its expenses and/or debts, and ultimately succumbed to an early death, so to speak. We cannot fault any owner for declining to talk about the end of his/her/their business. We can only wish them good luck in whatever comes next in life.

To Black Snout, to Kellys, to Broken Trail, we raise one up this week, and hope against the odds that there are no more casualties to report in this darkest of years.

Until then, we can only repeat, over and over …

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

7 Comments Add yours

  1. 8bithitman says:

    Any word on Cantero? They have been radio silent for quite some time.

    1. cjax33 says:

      We have been told that the owners will not reopen until after the pandemic. Apparently they have enough money from their other business ventures to wait it out. We shall see.

      1. 8bithitman says:

        Crossing my fingers that Kain & Co. can pull it through!

      2. cjax33 says:

        Update: A reliable source has told us that Cantero’s brewing equipment is up for sale.

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