What’s better than getting to hang out with the newest brewer to hit the local scene? Getting to do it while sampling free beer, of course!

Last week, I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to McKenzie Brew House’s Devon location to do just that. With an Undergraduate degree in Math and a Masters degree in Journalism, Nadine Banks doesn’t have the typical background of a brewer. But like many professional brewers, Nadine grew tired of her desk job and made the leap to brewing to do something more creative and hands on.

A native of Malvern, Nadine graduated from West Chester University with a degree in Math. After graduation, she landed a job as a Pension Administrator and made the move to Boston where she lived and worked for eleven years. Worn out by the 9–5 grind, she ended up taking a leap – quitting without having a new job lined up.

After this, Nadine pursued a Masters degree in Journalism at Northeastern University in Boston,  but found that this too was not what she expected. This time was the perfect opportunity to do some serious traveling with a friend. Nadine had already seen most of Western Europe, and on this trip she explored every continent other than Antarctica.

During her extensive travels, she took the time to sample the local brews. Nadine is of Scottish descent and had spent plenty of time in Scotland and the United Kingdom growing up. This was a place she always loved and she also fell in love with their beers. She developed an affinity for Scottish Ales and English Bitters, though she has recently fallen in love with American IPAs as well.

After returning home from her travels she searched for a new occupation. With nothing left for her in Boston, Nadine moved back to Malvern and decided to give brewing a try. She had always been fond of craft beer and was drawn to the industry by the interesting people that worked in brew pubs. After being stuck behind a desk for eleven years, Nadine loved the mixture of art and science behind the brewing. Here, she could utilize her creativity and create something tangible.

Nadine looked around for breweries where she could volunteer and gain experience in the brewing world. She first tried larger craft breweries, but was advised to start at a local brewpub where she could get the full brewing experience. McKenzie Brew House was nearby, so she started volunteering in July of 2011. The earliest jobs consisted of grunt work, like jumping into the mash tuns to scrub them down, but she quickly took on more interesting tasks.

At McKenzie Brew House, Nadine and her fellow brewers, Ryan Michaels and Nate Walter, rotate from location to location brewing and kegging when necessary at their three brewpubs. Around the holidays, Nadine was hired to work part-time so McKenzie’s could keep up with surging production needs. The departure of Gerard Olson, who recently left to start Forest & Main, left an opening in the brewery and just  Nadine was brought on to the McKenzie team full-time. During her short  time at McKenzie Brew House, she has had the chance to work on a new English Bitter for the Chadds Ford location called Nadine’s Bitter.

While meeting Nadine, I had the opportunity to try out three of the brews that Nadine and the team have brewed. The first beer I tried was Zaza, which was a Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale that clocked in at 4.5% abv and 15 IBU. Zaza is one of their seasonal beers that is currently on tap at their Devon location. This beer tastes of toasty biscuity malts, with a great spicy Belgian yeast and very refreshing hops. This beer is a bit maltier than your average Farmhouse Ale, but the yeast really balanced it out well.

The next beer I sampled was their American Pale Ale. This is a year-round offering that has 4.5% abv and 15 IBU. This beer was just finished last week and it tasted extremely fresh. The hop flavor was very fresh, spicy and earthy. The hoppiness is very accessible to hop-heads and those that aren’t as fanatical as well. This beer was not as bitter as some APA’s that I have had, and that was something I really enjoyed. This is the perfect beer for those hot days we have been subjected to lately.

McKenzie’s DJV Barleywine was my final sample of the night. This is a seasonal American Barleywine that measures 9.5% abv and 70 IBU. This is a sweet brew with a ton of rich malt complexities and a slight smokiness. During my sampling I tasted brown sugar, toffee, caramel and smoked peat. The hops definitely showed at the finish of this beer. It was slightly boozy, but not much for a beer that clocked in at 9.5% alcohol by volume.

I really enjoyed my time hanging out with Nadine and sampling these great beers. This was actually my first time at McKenzie Brew House but it definitely won’t be my last. You can learn more about McKenzie Brew House on their website or you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.