Student startups: Naughty Otter Beer

Alumni take their talents from students to business owners

Queen's students enjoying Naughty Otter Beer
Credit: 
supplied by Robbie Mitchnick

Next up in our student start-up series, we’re taking a look at a group of alumni who’ve left their mark in a very spirited way. Introducing Naughty Otter Beer. 

Using Queen’s as their business breeding grounds, COMM’13 graduates Cord McGee, Ryan Peterson, Donald Gawel, and ArtSci ’13 graduate Robbie Mitchnick started the Naughty Otter Beer brand. 

“We’ve always seen [Queen’s] as our backyard, our home territory and a place that we really wanted to keep the brand anchored in,” Mitchnick, Naughty Otter chairman, said. 

The beer itself represents the fun-loving and cheeky aspects of drinking culture its makers experienced at Queen’s. 

Mitchnick described them as light, not flavourful or hoppy and with a low alcohol concentration. They keep the ingredients local and natural to maintain and strengthen their connection to both Kingston and Queen’s.

“You have this balance of a beer that’s very sensible, very enjoyable, but still flavourful with decent body to it,” he said. “That’s sort of the paradigm that we’ve tried to create, and we think of Naught Otter as this fun, playful, irreverent, rebellious concept that fits in sort of perfectly.” 

The brewing business is fiercely competitive, with over 200 breweries in Ontario. It’s a tough business to break into.

Because of this, the Naughty Otter team knew that to succeed, they needed to build a brand that would resonate with people. 

“The beer has to be good, but also you have to have a great brand and a great story,” Mitchnick continued. 

“We always knew that part of that for us needed to be our unique connection to Queen’s. Where we all were from and where we had large networks of people who knew us and wanted to support us. Where they were personally invested because we were their friends, local guys, Queen’s guys, young guys and they wanted to see us succeed.” 

To stay true to their vision, Naughty Otter attends student events, as well as hosting their own. 

The Queen’s School of Business did a case study on the company two years ago, used by Master’s and undergraduate students in Commerce strategy courses. 

To give back to the school and city that got them started, Naughty Otter has recently also set up a scholarship fund through the Smith School of Business. 

“Basically we didn’t want it to be thoroughly academic. We wanted someone that was well-rounded, who’s solid academically, but also is maybe involved with the community, involved in sports or the arts. We wanted the focus to be broad rather than purely on marks,” Mitchnick said.   

The scholarship will support an Ontario student in need who’s able to display broad based achievement and an interest in entrepreneurship. 

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