Photo: Courtesy of Five Boroughs Brewing Co.


Blake Tomnitz CSOM '12

An investment banking analyst turned award-winning brewer reflects on his journey.

Blake Tomnitz started crafting beer as a student at BC, and kept it up after graduating and moving to New York to work as an investment banking analyst. He visited taprooms around the city, fleshing out the business plan he’d originally drafted while at the Heights, and in 2015, Tomnitz left his job to cofound the award-winning Five Boroughs Brewing Co. in Brooklyn. 

I met my cofounder, Kevin O’Donnell, when we both worked at the investment bank UBS. We were going to beer festivals and he was the one who pushed me to say, We can do this. Let’s make the jump. We had complementary skill sets. I had more of the business and finance side and he had more of the operations and logistics side, and we both had friends in the beer industry with brewing science backgrounds. We started looking for real estate. We knew that we wanted to be a hyper-local brand, but a very big brand.

My parents were a little scared that I was leaving a very stable corporate occupation for something that was very risky. And so I think initially they were concerned, but as time went on and I gave them samples of the beers and updated them on the process and progress we were making, they started to warm up to it and become more excited. They were supportive, but cautiously optimistic—that’s probably the best way to say it.

We wanted a name and concept that was fully inclusive. For us, it was important to say that it doesn’t matter if you’ve lived here your entire life, or if you just moved here, or if you’re a tourist. This is New York City’s beer. It’s accessible and you can find it. And most importantly, we have a wide variety of beer styles that hit a lot of different palates.

There are pinch-me moments that really keep me going—when people are sitting in the taproom that you built and drinking this product that we’ve made and enjoying it. At the end of the day, beer is communal. It’s a beverage meant to bring people together. Witnessing that is so cool.

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