Artist Atlanta Dawn has helped brighten the exteriors of so many Quad Cities businesses in the past couple months, it was only natural that she helped Blue Cat Brew Pub in downtown Rock Island recover from a graffiti tag last weekend.

Charlie Cole, Blue Cat’s head brewer and co-owner, noticed the pink graffiti on the building’s south-facing wall (113 18th St., Rock Island) on Monday morning, Dec. 20, when he got into work. He contacted the police department, but downtown security cameras could not capture any possible suspects, Cole said Thursday.

Dawn — a 28-year-old painter from Rapids City, Ill. — saw a photo of the graffiti and contacted Cole (who’s a friend of hers) about painting over it. She completed the new art (a blue catfish, to match Blue Cat’s logo) Thursday within five hours, dressed in a festive red-and-white elf outfit.

The Blue Cat wall before and after its recent graffiti damage.

“It’s great,” Cole said Thursday afternoon. “She actually did a lot of work at Bent River when I was there. She’s done a lot of work for a lot of local businesses and other breweries. We have several mutual friends.”

They covered the new wall art in a sealant, so any attempt at tagging over it can be easily removed, Cole posted on Facebook. “And if they decide to tag any other part of the wall, that will be covered by another local artist. The lighting has been upgraded on that wall, the public cameras are facing it, and a police report has been filed. Defense is the best offense.”

“The Blue Cat Brewing Co. is back in action and thriving. If you haven’t been in since they reopened last month, add it to your to do list,” Dawn posted Thursday. “Food is great and brewmaster Charlie Cole is crafting up liquid gold.”

She said Friday morning that Cole originally thought of having a local graffiti artist cover the unwanted graffiti with spray paint. “Then I thought about it, and I was like, it’s a blue cat. I could do a really cool catfish,” Dawn said. “I was like, well, I don’t do spray paint, but I’d love to paint a really cool catfish and he’s like, all right then.”

While she was going to wear her usual overalls while painting Thursday, she looked at the warm forecast, and changed into her elf outfit.

Atlanta Dawn, 28, of Rapids City, Ill.

“I didn’t think it was going to be like a media thing. But I’m really glad it was, for the sake of the Blue Cat, ‘cause I would really like to see them succeed, since they just reopened,” Dawn said. “It’s really nice to see them and it puts out some attention in the public. So people are aware that they’re reopened and that they’ve got a new head brewmaster.”

She said graffiti has been actually happening a lot lately around the Quad Cities.

“I just feel like it is sad and unfortunate and I had a lot of people, while I was painting over, who stopped by and said we’re so glad you’re fixing it,” Dawn said.

Four years after new owners of the former Blue Cat Brew Pub rebranded the bar and restaurant Big Swing Brewing Co., the name and some of the original beer recipes from the 27-year-old QC craft brewing pioneer returned with a soft re-opening Nov. 5.

Cole has paid tribute in every way he can to the legacy that Dan and Martha Cleaveland started in 1994. Blue Cat will release new menu items including experimental soups, sandwiches, and burgers and a tap list with a mix of classic, award-winning Blue Cat recipes and new beers from the award-winning head brewer.

Charlie Cole is the head brewer and co-owner at Blue Cat Brew Pub (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“When I was there eating yesterday, they actually had a lot of their tables filled, compared to when I visited them the week they opened,” Dawn said. “I went in and sat down to support them and have lunch, and there was nobody there. And then by this time, I got like a month and a half after they were open. They had a good majority of their tables full, and people were there and it was happening. So it was really cool.”

A new beer collaboration and more art to come

Cole said he’d love to create a whole wall of local artists, to join the catfish.

“The Blue Cat has a lot of ties back to when they opened, working with local artists. We have local art inside,” he said Thursday. “Brewing beer, craft beer is as much science as art. We’re all creative and artists. We’re very much into working with local artists and collaborating with local brewers.”

Cole has contacted Quad City Arts executive director Kevin Maynard about getting other artists to do their magic on the wall.

“It would be great to do multiple artists and have the whole wall covered,” he said. “It would make it pretty cool like that.”

One of Blue Cat’s latest partnerships with area craft brewers is a new Rye IPA — a collaboration brew among Geneseo Brewing’s head brewer Rachel Leiby, Crawford Brew Works’ head brewer Scott Schaar, Pink Boot/ Powder Keggers member Karen Scharr, and Charlie Cole.

Blue Cat bartender Alice shows off a glass of the new Rye IPA.

The sweet, complex IPA is from a recipe by Cole’s friend, Kurt Smelser, who won the Judges Choice at a home brewing competition in 2018, with the prize of getting to brew one of his recipes on the professional equipment at Geneseo Brewing.

Unfortunately, Smelser passed away (on April 15, 2021, his 62nd birthday) before he was able to fulfill his prize. Rachel, Scott, Karen, and Charlie came together to make sure his beer was brewed and tapped. “A HUGE thank you to our friends at Geneseo Brewing for sending us a small amount to tap at Blue Cat,” Cole posted recently. “Kurt was an amazing brewer and an even better friend. We are honored to be part of this tribute.”

Cole wrote for the QC Ale Trail blog in July:

“The local brewing community was rocked by the news of Kurt’s passing. Though he may not have been a professional brewer, he was so deeply connected in the QC brewing community. Most of your favorite local breweries have brewers that called Kurt a friend and were inspired by him and his creations at some point over the years. The Cedar Rapids/ Waterloo and Oklahoma City brewing communities were affected too, as Kurt had spent several years in those areas as well.”

Kurt Smelser of Waterloo, Iowa (left) died on April 15, 2021, his 62nd birthday.

“He had a presence about him of confidence and wisdom when it came to brewing knowledge,” Cole wrote. “His personality was also so warm and inviting, never proud, always humble when it came to receiving feedback on his more-than-often big, boozy beers.”

“He was a great guy, a great friend,” he said Thursday of Smelser. “He is very missed. We’re happy to brew his beer, have a tribute to him.”

For more information on Blue Cat, visit their website.