Ireland isn’t exactly known as a hotbed for craft beer. And that’s exactly why Joe Kearns is excited about his new head brewing job.
Kearns, brewmaster at Main Street Grille and Brewing Co. in Garrettsville for the last two years, is headed across the Atlantic Ocean to help launch White Hag Brewery, a new 30-barrel production brewery in Sligo in the Republic of Ireland. He and his family, including two young children, are moving next month.
“It’s going to be an interesting, fun challenge,” he said about building a brewery from the ground up. “I’m pumped.”
The most exciting part is the fact that the Irish people are still learning about craft beer. The country is dominated now by Heineken, Carlsberg and Coors Light, he said.
“Ireland is where we [the U.S.] were about 15 years ago,” Kearns said. “For me, it’s like having a time machine almost.”
Because he’s lived through the rise of the craft beer industry in America, he’s learned from the successes and failures and can apply those lessons in Ireland. The demand for craft beer is there, especially as people travel more outside the country, he said.
Ireland — which is smaller in size than Indiana with a population of 4.5 million — has 22 craft breweries now, Kearns said. (There are another 1.8 million people in Northern Ireland.)
White Hag will serve the entire country and even has a deal in place to export to New York City, he said. There are plans for a taproom, but no restaurant, he added.
It’s not like Kearns was looking for another job. He spotted an ad for a brewer on ProBrewer.com earlier this year and, out of curiosity, sent off his resume. He beat out more than 30 applicants.
Kearns said his grandfather, who recently passed away, grew up about 20 minutes from where his family will live.
“I just felt if I didn’t do it I might spend the rest of my life wondering, ‘What if?’ ” he said. “I didn’t have any real ‘Why nots?’ ”
At Main Street, Kearns’ former assistant, Mike Mallone, has taken over the brewing duties.