Quarter Celtic Taproom delivers Emerald Isle fare paired with its own beer - Albuquerque Journal

Quarter Celtic Taproom delivers Emerald Isle fare paired with its own beer

Crimson Lass Irish Red Ale, alongside MacLomas Stout Stew and Fried Pickles. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

According to U.S. Census data, only Hawaii and Utah have a smaller percentage of people of Irish descent than New Mexico. That hasn’t stopped Albuquerque from developing a decent Irish pub scene, with Two Fools Tavern a mainstay in Nob Hill, and O’Niell’s Pub serving up fish and chips and Guinness from locations in the Heights and Nob Hill.

Quarter Celtic, the most recent arrival to this scene, has carved a unique niche by brewing its own beers to pair with its Celtic cuisine. Head brewer Brady McKeown’s stout, Scotch ale, Irish Red Ale, Mexican lager and IPA have won a host of awards since the brew pub opened on San Mateo and Lomas in 2016.

The success of the original Quarter Celtic – the name refers to the Irish, Scottish and Welsh lineage of McKeown and his partners – prompted the 2019 launch of a taproom in a small strip mall on the east side of Juan Tabo north of Indian School. The stucco-faced exterior gives no hint of the riot of decoration inside. Award banners and empty sacks of malt hang from the ceiling. Photographs and coats of arms enliven the walls. There’s a short bar on the south side of the space and a couple of giant chalkboards on the opposite side of the dining room.

The menu combines Celtic favorites like Scotch eggs and bangers and mash with nachos, chicken wings and other familiar pub grub choices. A half-order appetizer of Fried Pickles ($5.99) epitomizes Quarter Celtic’s philosophy of delivering shareable portions at modest prices. The pickles, cut lengthwise, wore a crackling crisp coating, and the accompanying ranch dressing cooled their sour brininess. The metal tray was piled with nine pieces: more than enough for two people.

The Celtic Trio sampler plate with corned beef, shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Salads start at $8 and offer the option of adding chicken and grilled salmon. Other starters include a soup du jour and a beef stew flavored with Quarter Celtic’s MacLomas Stout, available in a cup ($4.99) or bowl ($6.99). The stew is made up of chunks of potatoes and cubes of beef tender enough that you can break them apart with the side of your spoon. The stout added depth to a broth that was a little thinner than a typical stew. It’s a simple, well-executed dish. The stew came with a wedge of green chile soda bread that looked like a scone. It was pretty heavy and dry and benefitted from a dip in the broth.

A large portion of the menu is devoted to Celtic Favorites. The Celtic Trio offers a choice of three of these favorites for $22.99. I sampled the Shepherd’s Pie, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Fish and Chips.

The three samples were arranged on a large plate with a small bowl of Shepherd’s Pie in the center. Shepherd’s Pie traces its roots to the Scottish practice of wrapping leftover meat and gravy in pastry crust. When the dish migrated to Ireland, the crust was replaced by mashed potatoes, naturally. Quarter Celtic’s version consists of a layer of ground lamb and beef mixed with carrots, peas and onions and topped with mashed potatoes and cheese. The meat and vegetables, cooked in a stout-infused gravy, were tasty, but the whole thing could have used a little more time under the broiler.

Next to it, a couple of slices of corned beef over a little pile of cabbage looked forlorn. The corned beef, spicy and falling-apart tender, was nicely done, but the cabbage barely registered and needed a dousing of malt vinegar to bring it to life.

The best part of the sampler was the Fish and Chips made with haddock, a flaky white fish. The coating was crisp and adhered well to the fish, and the tangy tartar sauce augmented the haddock’s mild flavor. The fries were excellent: crisp on the outside, fluffy in the middle.

Along with the Celtic favorites, Quarter Celtic offers a couple of burgers and a small but impressively varied selection of sandwiches. There’s a Shrimp Po Boy, a Philly Cheesesteak, and a Southwestern Chicken Wrap. Everything on this part of the menu is in the $10 to $15 range.

The menu offers six inexpensive desserts; most notably, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar ($2.50) that’s big enough for two to share. The dessert was inspired by the gold bars that once served as a Wednesday treat for APS students. Quarter Celtic’s version has a base of peanut butter mixed with graham crackers and powdered sugar topped with a layer of melted chocolate and peanut butter. Simple and tasty, with a good balance of chocolate and peanut butter, it’s a great value.

The Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar, one of Quarter Celtic’s six dessert options. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

All of this battered and fried food is a minefield for gluten-free diners. The server told me that gluten-free options are limited to grilled fish and mashed potatoes without the gravy.

Quarter Celtic’s selection of award-winning beers are available in serving sizes ranging from a 10-ounce glass to a 32-ounce can. The Crimson Lass, an Irish Red Ale made with malt from Cork on the Emerald Isle, is a lovely deep amber color. It’s an easy drinker, with low carbonation, a slight toffee flavor and a dry finish. It’s also only 5% alcohol by volume. The 10-ounce glass costs $5. Along with the beer, there are ciders, seltzers, and wines by the glass from St. Clair and Sheehan Wineries ($8-$9). You can also get a few craft cocktails in cans.

One server worked the entire space while I was there and did a terrific job. The food came out very quickly. Note: There is a small fee for paying by credit card.

A thoughtful menu, generous portions of food and quality beers make Quarter Celtic Taproom a solid addition to the Irish pub scene in Albuquerque. It’s a great hangout spot for St. Patrick’s Day and beyond.

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