Created at Queen's

Engineering a new brew

Ted Fleming, Sc’00, sitting on a bench in front of two distillers at his brewery.

Photography by Candice Ward

When Ted Fleming, Sc’00, launched a Kickstarter campaign for his non-alcoholic craft beer company in 2017, the move seemed like a departure from his engineering roots. But for Fleming, what he learned as an engineering student at Queen’s still applies to his work in the non-alcoholic brewing industry. Now the founder and chief executive officer of Partake Brewery in Toronto, he explains that the lessons offered by a Queen’s engineering degree allowed him to approach his business from a problem-solving perspective.

“I think that’s partly why I chose the program; it helped with my adaptability. In engineering, you face difficult problems, but also get exposure to social sciences and things that help you look at how issues impact people. That adaptability was a key lesson for me, and I think that’s how I’ve approached business. Every business is just a series of problems that need to be solved, and I’ve found having an engineering mindset is very important to managing that process,” says Mr. Fleming.

After making dietary changes necessary because of a Crohn’s disease diagnosis in 2005, Fleming realized what he missed most was the social connections that blossomed when friends and colleagues would go for a drink. Switching to non-alcoholic beer introduced him to a space that had been neglected by brewers, retailers, and the hospitality industry.

For Mr. Fleming, it was a new problem to solve.

Wanting to create an inclusive space where those drinking non-alcoholic beverages didn’t have to compromise on taste or experience, he developed a non-alcoholic craft beer that offered consumers a low--calorie alternative but still provided the craft beer experience. It’s a product that’s resonated with consumers and Partake has grown considerably since its Kickstarter roots five years ago. The company was completing its second financing round in March 2022, raising $16 million, and earlier this year Mr. Fleming was named a 2022 Globe and Mail changemaker. Partake’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed and is changing the conversation in the wider industry.

“We’ve had this tremendous shift towards people who are drinking non-alcoholic beer who don’t have to be. And they’re choosing to do so partially because companies like ours are creating great products and it’s no longer a compromise to drink non-alcoholic beer. It’s a fundamental shift in terms of who’s coming into the category and it’s very exciting. We can pitch to any beer drinker now because they’re not missing a beat socially or in terms of health.”

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