Iron Horse Brewery Logo

What is Quilter’s Irish Death?

From The Iron Horse Brewery Blog

What is Quilter’s Irish Death?


What is Quilter’s Irish Death? Who is Jim Quilter? 

Two commonly asked questions we will attempt to answer. 

Quilter’s Irish Death isn’t a tribute to crafting or sewing although we do love the blanket our grandma made us for our birthday. Thanks, Gramms.

Irish Death is our flagship beer, a dark ale with hints of chocolate, which we lovingly refer to as beer candy. At 7.8% ABV and 12 IBU it’s smooth enough to session but too strong to do so. And don’t even bother trying to classify it because we haven’t been able to after all these years. 

But it’s more than that. It’s a beer for occasions — your special moments, your triumphs (and failures), your sporting events, your camping trips, and even your grandma’s 90th birthday party. 

Everyone has a story about the first time they tried Irish Death. 

Cinda Woodard Lewis’ fondly recalls trying Irish Death at Safeco Field in 2017 at a game where the Mariners shut out the Oakland A’s. The outcome while positive for her team, would have been positive either way once Irish Death was in the picture. 

“Go Ms! After 2 glasses of Irish Death, however, I’d have been happy to win or lose.” Cinda wrote. “Later that summer, made sure to stop at the brewery in Ellensburg on the way to girl’s weekend at the Gorge.”

For Lynx Snow, Irish Death often brings back the memory of her wedding night. The first time she tried Irish Death was the night she married her husband. As with most weddings the bride and groom have the longest day out of anyone, and by the time they took a break to eat the bar was the only option. 

“Beer was a necessity,” Lynx wrote. “We ordered our food and two glasses of Irish Death and haven’t stopped ordering it since. We love the flavor profile and the texture, smooth with a good head. Best beer I’ve ever had on the best night of my life.”

It will forever be a part of their history together, and now we’ll get into the beer’s history. 

History & Mystery

The name “Quilter’s” came from the brewery’s creator, Jim Quilter, who passed away in 2009.

Jim Quilter was the original owner of Iron Horse Brewery, which he launched in Ellensburg, WA in 2004. He was a longtime homebrewer and who had also worked for other notable breweries including Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, CA), Butte Creek Brewery (Chico, CA), and Mad River Brewing (Blue Lake, CA) before opening his own brewery.

The four regular beers in Iron Horse Brewery’s lineup when Quilter owned it were: Rodeo Extra Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Locomotive Red Ale. He also made Irish Death in very limited batches, which he put in 12-ounce bottles without labels and sold directly from the brewery. At that time the brewery had no tasting room, but was a brewery and home brew shop.

Fan art.

Current owners Greg Parker and his father Gary partnered with Jim in 2006 and eventually bought out the brewery in 2007.

Current owner and general manager Greg Parker said when he became a partner with the brewery he noticed people were demanding more Irish Death.

“Almost daily people would come into the brewery and say, ‘When will Irish Death be ready?'” Parker recalled.

Parker wanted to brew more of it, and the people wanted it, so he took it upon himself to learn how to brew Irish Death. That’s called initiative, folks. 

Today Irish Death is the majority of what Iron Horse Brewery sells, and right around 18,500 barrels of it were sold in 2017. Iron Horse Brewery produced a total of 23,903 barrels across all brands in 2017.

“I’m glad it’s no longer once a year and I think we all should be since we all have jobs because of Irish Death,” Parker said. 

Parker says he’s not sure of the genesis for the recipe or how the original name for the beer came about. “I think Jim was Irish and him loving beer so much. He was afraid Irish Death was going to be the death of him. Maybe I made that up. Human memory is notably faulty.”


The pursuit of producing more Irish Death pushed Iron Horse Brewery to expand to four additional states – OR, ID, MT & AK. We’ve enjoyed meeting all of our fans in those areas, and we plan to continue growing. This year we shipped a pallet of 40ish ⅙ barrels to Japan since we had an opportunity, but we’re also looking for opportunities stateside too. While we don’t have anything to announce formally at this time we can tell you we hear each and every request that comes through. 

Irish Death unites people. Like the 51 people who work at the brewery to produce, package, market and sell it. 

It’s there for you at every Mariner’s game. It’s there for you during the holidays with your extended family. It’s a symbol of hope for those who want to just get back to the basics and know they’re going to spend the next hour of their lives enjoying a delicious beer.

Let Irish Death be there for your next occasion, and grab a 6-pack from the store nearest you.  

Other Posts


David Campbell
December 10, 2019 6:19 pm

I live in Sullivan, IN. I visit Poulsbo WA every 2 years. My older brother & his lovely wife live there. Drank my 1st Irish Death ‘this year, love it. Spent around a month in Poulsbo. Probably drank, well way to many. Could you please start sending Irish Death to Terre Haute IN. I’ve told people about this great drink. Think it would go over well. There is an Irish pup in Terre Haute on Wabbash Avenue. I’d say they would be glad to take it on.

Jane Gordon
April 30, 2020 7:48 pm

How can I order my Irish brother, who’d love this, beer for his birthday? He lives in Minnesota and I in Seattle. He’s a beer connisiuer!

Bill Marsh
May 25, 2020 11:33 am

I discovered Irish Death while I was working in Baker City, Oregon
Since then, it has been my ‘go to brew’.
I have to smile every time I open a 6-pack of cans and see the imprint on one end of the case.
√32 – Because Math
Got to love it!

Tom Jacobsen
December 22, 2020 8:57 pm

I recently worked briefly at a little grocery store in Montana, just off the Rocky Mountain Front. If a six pack got damaged, it sat under a sink in the backroom waiting to be credited by the beer rep. But he must have missed the Irish Death containing a punctured can, which had warped the box and made it unattractive as it sat there among the broken cases of Shasta cola, etc. I asked my boss about it and she said “Just take it home.” Love that woman. Holy shit this is great beer. I googled it and was amazed to see some 3.8’s among the ratings. This is a 5.0, which, if representing a rock climb, indicates superlative skill in achieving the summit. And so it is with this beer. Best in a snifter, but I’d drink it anywhere out of anything! Good work you geniuses! Thanks (since it rightly says “You’re welcome” on the can!)

Richard J Murray
April 23, 2021 9:43 am

Had my first Irish Death last night at Bert’s Growler Garage in Ontario Oregon. Wonderful experience and look forward to many more in the future!

Kim Cuellar
August 26, 2021 1:35 am

OMG! Tried this for the first time after the guys at work mentioned it. Thankful I did. What great flavour and richness this beer has. I wanted to say thank you !!

Jason Casale
September 4, 2021 6:28 am

How can we get irish death in Phoenix.
Our sprouts does not carry it but the ones in Washington did.
Looked for it everywhere here in PHX no luck.
Might have to buy cases when I go back to Washington, not sure when that will be..

Patricia Collins
October 28, 2021 4:54 pm

Holy Moly! My husband and I travel in our motorhome across the US with “breweries” in mind for destinations to try the craft brews. We have a blast trying all the clever ideas and names for the brew. But, nothing compares to the Irish Death and I can’t wait to get back to my home in Medford Oregon to get the best beer at my store. I really enjoyed the Mocha Death that you had at one time. Never, never run out of Irish Death….Thank you, You’re Welcome!

Holly Dabb
June 17, 2022 6:52 pm

I have a retail store in Wyoming and customers are requesting your products. Do you have any Wyoming distributors?

Vicki Horton
June 3, 2023 12:23 am

As a retired German teacher I love dark beers. Appreciate Guiness but Irish Death is superior. Learned of it from my younger sister who passed too soon. Every sip of Irish Desth is an homage to her memory. And I went to Central in the 70’s. Gotta love it.

January 27, 2024 8:13 pm

I discovered this fantastic brew while at a hockey game. asked them if they had a dark beer. now it’s the only beer I drink!

Leave a Reply