Wall Street guy's path to joy: Less banking, more beer

Author: Karen Stern

Former investment banker Michael Kane followed his real passion - for beer. Now, Kane Brewing Co. is among New Jersey's increasingly successful craft breweries.

Kane fell in love with beer in college, though not in a frat party sort of way.

In 1997, while backpacking through Europe before his sophomore year, Kane found himself drawn to the pilsners and ales of Germany and the Netherlands. He liked the beer, but he also liked the social, family-friendly culture of the beer gardens.

When he returned to Fairfield University in Connecticut, Kane spent his weekends visiting New England's small-craft breweries-companies like Magic Hat and Long Trail, which were just small start-ups at the time. Most of the owners, Kane learned, had started as home-brewers.

Inspired, Kane bought a book and a brew kit. It was love at first pint, and he knew instantly that he wanted to start his own brewery. But he also knew that at age 22, he lacked the experienced and capital to be successful. So upon graduating, he used his business degree to get a job as a litigation consultant in New York City. When he traveled for work, he'd make detours to visit breweries. He continued to brew at home, and even made the beer for his wedding.

Later, while working toward an MBA at Notre Dame, every business proposal he wrote was for a brewery or distillery, "just to get an understanding of how the industry worked," he says.

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