Eleven years in the military is enough for Erik May.
Soon, May will cut back to just one weekend a month as a national guardsman, and pursue what many others in West Michigan currently are doing: a career in the craft beer industry.
But his time spent in the military was something he’d never give up; it’s helped give him a guide in life.
He spent a year at Grand Valley State, but soon dropped out.
“I partied my way out pretty quickly,” he said. “I was lost and just wandered around for a while. I don’t know what drove me, but I just (enlisted).”
He went around the world, including a stint in Iraq.
“I saw some good things, and I saw a lot of bad things.”
He works as an intelligence specialist, “trying to figure out the real story in the news.”
Now he does the job in Battle Creek, but the sequestration has drastically cut back the time of federal employees.
“Military members are essentially getting laid off,” he said, adding that it seems like a reversal of what should be happening.
But May said he realized at a young age that you have to follow your passion in life, and the military has helped with that.
“It was exactly what I needed, but it’s not my passion, it’s not what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “Getting shot at kind of sucks after a while.”
He said once you get to your mid-30s, family and financial responsibilities make it a lot harder to just branch of and do what you want and try to make a living. He turned 30 last year and has a wife and child.
So he and a business partner have decided to start up a craft malt house; getting in on the ground floor of the craft beer industry.
“What craft beer is to Miller, we’ll be to the malters that supply them,” he said. “It’s an art; a craft.”
A market opportunity for both malt houses and hop growers have popped up in Michigan as very little exists in terms of an all-Michigan supply chain for the more than 120 breweries in the state.
But life is way more than just what you do for a career.
“It’s meant to be around family,” he said. “How to be the best brother, son, father, husband that you can be. Find your passion and charge full bore after it. At least then you can look yourself in the eye.”