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.
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.