Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who We Are & How We Got Here

I was fortunate enough to spend some time during college traveling around different parts of Europe with some friends.  We spent a good amount of that time in local pubs, bars and beer gardens and it was there that I developed an appreciation for beer styles and drinking cultures that were vastly different from what I had experienced in the U.S. 

Once back at school in Connecticut, I continued to explore new beer styles and different imports that were available in the Northeast, but what fascinated me the most was the small but growing craft beer market in the U.S.  At the time there were several new breweries in my area, but Vermont seemed to be where it was at.  A number of small but interesting breweries had opened in the state over the past decade creating a have a thriving craft beer scene.  These beers weren’t distributed much outside Vermont at that point, but I was able to try some of their beers each winter when I was up their snowboarding.

Each trip up would include a stop at a different local brewery.  What I learned during a tour at one of the new breweries was a lot of the brewers had started out by making beer at home.  After returning from the at trip, I found a guy selling some home brew equipment out of his liquor store, got a few books and went to work.  Before my first batch had finished fermenting, I think I knew I would one day open a brewery.

That was over 10 years ago…so what took so long.  Besides being young and broke, I thought this venture would be better served getting some business experience while I continued to learn how to brew at home.  So I got a career in New York City as a litigation consultant and continued to brew beer and research the industry on weekends. 

After four years as a consultant and brewing beer in a tiny East Village apartment I shared with a college roommate, I headed back to business school.  Although I didn’t get to brew that much over those two years because of exams, projects, etc., I did mange to land a sweet summer internship in the Netherlands.  

I spent my weekends visiting fantastic beer destinations like Antwerp, Cologne, Brussels, Düsseldorf and more out of the way locations like the Trappist breweries in the country side of Belgium—all of which were just a short train (and/or bus) ride away.  

I also got a chance to revisit places like Copenhagen, Dublin, London and Munich and I spent a little bit of time in Amsterdam…which is always a good time. 

After business school I was back in a suit in NYC.  I ended up working in Mergers & Acquisitions at an investment bank and brewing in a different, even smaller apartment.  Seems like another unusual decision for someone interested in opening a brewery, but I felt that it was a great place to learn practical skills needed to pull together a business plan, run a business and most importantly save some money. 

If you know nothing about the life of an investment banker, the key take away is that the hours are crazy—weeks routinely exceed 80 hours and often reach close to 100.  A fair amount of that time is spent waiting, so I used that downtime to do research, build models, speak to people in the industry and complete the business plan.  It took close to three years but when you have to pull it together on your limited amount of free time that’s what it takes. 

The one benefit though was that travel was sometimes a large part of that job so I was able to squeeze in visits to a lot of breweries that I would never been able to see otherwise and extend some of my work trips with my limited vacation time to attend events like the Craft Brewers Conferences or to take brewing classes at University of California at Davis. 

With the plan mostly complete, I started looking for a building in the summer of 2009.  I wanted to find a place that fall and leave my job after the New Year.  I grossly overestimated the time it would it take to find a suitable building for the brewery, which I will get to in a later posts, but as of March 2010 I pushed forward without a location and became the first, and only full-time employee of the Kane Brewing Company. 

A lot has been accomplished since March of 2010.  I plan to fill in the details in later posts, but I wanted to introduce myself and let you know how we got here.  

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