Joe Kearns cuts a cool figure with his dark beard and laid back attitude; he also has the job half the college students in Ireland dream of –Master Brewer at a craft brewery. It is the stuff of dreams, but for Joe it’s a reality and one he absolutely loves.
Born and brought up in Ohio, USA, Joe’s heritage is all Irish with grandparents on both sides having emigrated back in the 1930s. His Dad’s family came from Castlebar, Co. Mayo and his Mother’s from Co. Down. He was raised in an Irish neighbourhood where Guinness was the drink of choice for most men.
Joe’s first introduction to brewing came about in a rather unusual fashion when he was just 17. Father’s Day was approaching and he was drawing a blank on gift ideas. A chance remark from a friend led to him purchasing a homebrew kit for his Dad. However Joe was the one who ended up doing the actual brewing. When it had matured and the first glass was poured, father and son stood there looking at it – neither brave enough to take a sip. Joe plucked up the courage – and to his surprise and delight it tasted great. Dad sponsored the next batch and Joe’s fledgling brewing career had begun. His parents always told him he could be anything he wanted to be – a Master Brewer probably wasn’t what they were thinking of though!
On leaving school, he trained as a paramedic and began working in the emergency services. He kept up home brewing on the side; no doubt making him very popular amongst his peers.
After five years of a high paced paramedic career, Joe was pretty burned out and when a small brewery opened locally, he offered his services as an apprentice, free of charge to start with, but showing real flair, was in full time employment within a year. He’d chosen well, Hoppin’ Frog Brewery is ranked about 17th in the world, specialising in imperial stouts.
Joe spent the next few years building both his professional and personal life. He married Chrissy and they had two lovely children, Benjamin (now aged 7) and Bella (4). Idly browsing on an industry website one night he saw an ad from a brand new brewery in Sligo looking for a Master Brewer. He made contact, met them in New York with some beer samples and was offered a job.
Neither had ever visited Ireland and in the end it was Chrissy who made the final decision; they packed their entire life into a 20 foot container and headed for a new life. Does he like it? He loves it! The pace of life allows him more time to spend with his family, radiographer Chrissy has been able to take time out of work to rear their children and life in Ballymote is good.
The White Hag might be named after a mythical woman figure but it’s a real American man who is driving the brewery in exciting directions.