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SUMMER SUDS From pinching pennies to tossing the PhD: Paddy’s brewmaster Kirsten MacDonald talks about her love for craft beer

Kirsten MacDonald is the brewmaster at Paddy’s Brewpub in Wolfville. She abandoned her PhD studies in favour of brewing beer fulltime. “I love it that much,” she says.
Kirsten MacDonald is the brewmaster at Paddy’s Brewpub in Wolfville. She abandoned her PhD studies in favour of brewing beer fulltime. “I love it that much,” she says. - Sara Ericsson

WOLFVILLE, NS - The career Kirsten MacDonald stumbled across by accident has turned into a fruitful endeavour for the young craft beer brewer.

Currently the brewmaster for Paddy’s Brewpub in Wolfville, she’s already made some serious strides, and she’s only getting started.

“I’m always so willing to try everything, and that’s a major aspect of craft brewing – it opens up a variety to you, and that’s pretty key,” she says.

MacDonald’s journey with beer began not because she wanted to appreciate craft brewing, but because she was looking for a cheaper drinking option as a penny-pinching university student.

She began making her own home brew and was shocked to find how much she enjoyed it, and how good she was at brewing. She loved it so much she abandoned her PhD candidacy four years ago to pursue brewing beer full time.

“I absolutely fell in love with it. I’m an all-but-dissertation PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo for philosophy, and I gave up on it to follow beer. So yes, I love it that much,” laughs MacDonald.

After learning to brew under Unfiltered’s Greg Nash and Bad Apple’s Jeff Saunders, MacDonald was hired by Paddy’s Brewpub. She’s expanded the tap from eight to 12 beers, and says the customers have been supportive of her as the head brewer and the beers she offers.

“For a while it was funny – some customers were a little suspicious of the new beers – but now we have a pretty regular group coming in trying what’s new,” says MacDonald.

This beer from Paddy's features blueberries.
This beer from Paddy's features blueberries.

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‘Taken a chance on me’

MacDonald has faced little adversity in the industry as a female brewer and approaches her job from a place of deep love for craft beer and all of its intricacies. While it’s an industry seemingly dominated by men, female craft brewers in Nova Scotia like MacDonald are making waves just as large as their male counterparts’.

With brewers like Emily Tipton of Boxing Rock and Kellye Robertson at Spindrift, along with the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia – Tipton serves as president here too – voting to quash inequality within the industry, it’s “an exciting time to be a female brewer,” says MacDonald.

She says Saunders and Nash didn’t care she was a woman – “they took me as seriously as they take anyone else,” she says – but has felt discounted on a few occasions by male brewers.

“There have been conferences where people have been dismissive, but no one in the craft brewing industry in Nova Scotia has any issues, whatsoever,” she says.

“It’s a very welcoming community.”

MacDonald’s approach to brewing is all her own, and has no bearing on her gender, she says. And with that, she presses on each day, tapping into new inspirations and different ideas to see where her creativity will take her.

“This is what I love doing, and Paddy’s has taken a chance on me. I can’t wait to see where we go,” she says.

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