Bloor West Village-based entrepreneur Ted Fleming has turned an otherwise devastating diagnosis of a chronic illness into a business opportunity after he learned he needed to eliminate alcohol from his diet.
Fleming, a Sault St. Marie, Ont. native, who has lived in west Toronto since 2007, was diagnosed with Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease, a decade ago.
“It’s one of those conditions that doesn’t have a set playbook,” Fleming told The Villager. “You have to experiment as an individual to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I found that alcohol was a problem for me.”
The thing was, Fleming loved beer – so cutting out alcohol was initially challenging. He began relying on non-alcoholic beer available at grocery stores, restaurants and bars. Yet, boredom quickly set in.
“The quality is pretty bland,” he said.
Temptation was too strong and he found himself drinking alcoholic beer again.
“After a hospital visit, I decided to make a concerted effort to keep from going back to regular beer,” recalled Fleming.
That’s when he became determined to find premium quality, non-alcoholic beer in a variety of flavours, including lagers, wheat and dark brews – that tasted great. The idea for the business, ‘Premium Near Beer,’ was born out of the fact that Fleming had difficulty finding these beers without having to trek across the city and beyond. He thought, ‘If I’m having trouble finding these, I’m sure others are in the same boat.’
Launching the business happened really quickly. Fleming said he relied on a magazine article about non-alcoholic beer as a template and began offering a variety of products online in October – in time for the Christmas shopping season. Fleming is particularly proud to offer the German import, ‘Clausthaler,’ winner of the World’s Best Alcohol Free Lager 2013 Award.
“We’re the first to bring this product to Ontario on a larger scale,” he said.
‘Premium Near Beer’ has received a very positive response from its customers, who have turned to non-alcoholic beverages for health reasons or have a simple desire to reduce their alcohol consumption. Doesn’t hurt either that Premium Near Beer’s beverages typically have 50 few calories than regular beer.
It’s been 10 years since Fleming’s Crohn’s disease diagnosis and he says he is finally starting to feel well. Eliminating alcohol and red meat, in addition to taking doctor-prescribed medication, has helped him to manage his condition, which began with symptoms like extreme fatigue and abdominal pain.
Fleming moved to Toronto from the Sault after university in 2002 and has been here ever since, where the majority of his friends and family are.
If you would like further details, visit premiumnearbeer.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/premiumnearbeer or twitter: www.twitter.com/premiumnearbeer