29 January 2018

Beer Time in The Hammer - Hamilton's Craft Beer Scene

My Hometown
The rise of craft beer in Hamilton took a little longer than I would have liked, but damn if 2017 didn't take off like a rocket. The 3 year old Collective Arts was joined in the west end of the city first by Merit, then Fairweather, Grain & Grit and finally in early 2018 by Clifford Brewing on the east end to bookend a very busy 12 months for this beer fan. I have moments of joy at each brewery and now that we've reached that critical mass of making Hamilton a beer destination, it's time to take a snapshot look at this city's growing craft beer scene. No doubt I will revisit each of them more in depth as the year goes on, but my weekend spent hanging out at all 5 inspires me to spread the gospel of my hometown today!

First pint at Clifford January 2018

Clifford Brewing
Location -  398 Nash Road North
Website - http://www.cliffordbrewing.com/
Hours - Monday to Thursday - Closed/Friday & Saturday 12-9/Sunday 12-5
Personal Favourite Beer - Clifford Porter
  The newest Hammer brewer is led by one of the most liked people in Ontario Craft beer, Brad Clifford and is the culmination of many years hard work and persistence. The Clifford Porter and Pinball Wizard APA are well known and LCBO available beers that helped build the brand while Brad worked to make his dream happen. The space itself is a huge 10,000 square foot former Mattress factory located in the city's east end and is now home to the closest brewery to my house...that's pretty awesome right there. With 5 beers on tap, a Dry hopped session lager, English ale and East Hamilton Lager in addition to the more well known Clifford beers, it has the laid back feeling of a neighbourhood gathering spot that should gain more character as they fill out the large tap room to reflect the personality of the people who work there. Friendly and ready to show off the open concept brew space, its easy to see why a quick visit to Clifford turns into a few hours talking all things beer and then some. Look for a variety of excellent beers as Brad gets into a groove and no doubt there will be barrels and one offs for even the most discerning of drinkers to go along with easy drinking beers to help bring those new to the community of craft beer drinkers into the fold.
First Flight at Grain & Grit October 2017

Grain & Grit Brewing Company
Location - 11 Ewen Road
Website - http://www.grainandgritbeer.com/
Hours - Tuesday to Saturday - 12-9/Sunday 12-6/Monday Closed
Personal fave beer - Bob's Best Bitter
  Opening in October of 2017, this former garage turned cozy and inviting brewery was first visited by us months earlier and we couldn't believe the hard work to transform it so beautifully. The team of Joe and Lindsey Mrav along with Head Brewer Alex Sporn have brought a fine example of taking your dream and running with it till it comes true. The beers are in constant rotation as they bring different styles to the fore and let the consumer decide what is possible when hops and barley meet. From Pineapple Rye to the Candy cane White stout, they have a unique take on traditional styles that will serve them well going forward. The natural light from the big garage doors serves to heighten the bright white and clean lines of the brewery with the tanks so close you can rest your hand on them and give a little prayer to the beer gods for bringing these good beer folks to Hamilton. Upwards of 8 different beers on tap and a fridge stocked for you to take home, Grain & Grit is ready for you anytime.
First pint at Fairweather May 2017

Fairweather Brewing Company
Location - 5 Olfield Road
Website - http://fairweatherbrewing.com/
Hours - 11-9 Every day
Personal fave Beer - Dream Pop
  A May opening led to a summer of amazing releases that just kept hitting the mark every time. Fairweather brewing caught the city and the Ontario Craft beer scene at just the right moment with a combination of big hoppy IPAs, deliciously roasty porters and more and more, sour beers that are transforming peoples perception of the style. A family friendly place that feels like its been there forever and welcomes you back like a long lost friend, it fits the city and its community like a glove. Founded by Ram McAllister, Brent Milcz and Dan Ryan, this cozy taproom belies the enormous production facility in the back. A place that was made for lots of expansion, the early success of their initial offerings bodes well for the future and a growing fan base that makes there trek to Hamilton's west end for stops here and at G&G are becoming more frequent. Available in 500 ml bottles with just 3 words used perfectly to describe each beer, growlers and on tap, Fairweather has made a statement and it behooves you to listen, taste and join in the fun.
First Pint at Merit May 2017

Merit Brewing Company
Location - 107 James Street North
Website - http://www.meritbrewing.ca/
Hours - Monday to Wednesday 4-Midnight/Thursday Noon-Midnight/Friday and Saturday Noon-2 a.m./Sunday Noon-10
Personal Fave Beer - California Never Felt Like Home IPA
  May of 2017 saw Merit accelerate the craft beer revolution in The Hammer when they finally opened the doors to their location on a James Street that was in the beginnings of a serious revitalization. Located in the downtown core, the city has been working to transform this gritty urban landscape into a haven for art, good food and now great beer. The addition of not only the brewery but a proper kitchen that was full of delicious sausage and fries to die for help Merit stand out right from day 1. Communal seating encourages conversation and when we stop in at anytime, someone is sipping, eating and enjoying this gem on James Street. Tej Sandhu, Aaron Spinney and the group here make guests feel like family and the combination of a love of great beer from all over the world and the passion to brew it make this a must stop for lunch, dinner or a quick pint. The bottle shop is full of great 500 ml bottles and growlers for further home enjoyment.
First Growler fill Collective Arts September 2015

Collective Arts Brewing
Location - 207 Burlington Street East
Website - http://collectiveartsbrewing.com/
Hours - Every Day 11-9
Personal Fave Beer - Ransack the Universe IPA
  The OG Hamilton craft brewery that brought back our proud heritage as a beer making town when they took over the former Lakeport Brewery in the city's industrial North End in 2014, Collective Arts has since become a leader in the Craft beer scene for their innovative and constant new releases. Core beers took off almost immediately after opening and I was among those getting multiple growler fills every week as we started to experience what really good beer could be. Matt Johnson and Bob Russell along with Brewmaster Ryan Morrow have created lineup worthy beer that has people buzzing about every release, rivalling some American markets or even Bellwoods for their anticipation. Expanding their distribution to 7 U.S. states and even overseas, the sky is the limit for my first Hometown Heroes and their amazing beer. The taproom is filled with art and a buzz of people most of the time with a Biergarden for the summer and a hopeful expansion with a kitchen to come in the near future. Someone had to take the lead and Collective has been a partner to create the ripple that turned into a wave when it comes to craft beer in my hometown. Online ordering makes it easy to get CA beer anywhere in Ontario and the tap room is fully stocked with every offering as well as growlers and pints.

  Wrapping up this quick look at Hamilton's burgeoning scene makes me thirsty and anxious to make another road trip around the city to visit and hang out with the friends I've made along the way. It is now a whole day trip and worth making a drive to my hometown to explore the vibrant cultural scene that has been helped in part by the great craft beer being made at these locations. All seem to have a social connection to local charities and events and their support of those causes gives rise to a pride this town needs. The restaurants and bars are becoming more in tune to what beer drinkers want and you can find many fine establishments with either taps or cans and bottles from1or even all 5 of our Steeltown brewers.
  This is just the beginning, new and exciting beers and brewers to come as the year goes on I am sure. Hamilton has been my home almost my entire life and now I can proudly show off it's beer with a smile and a wink. See you all soon!


1 comment:

  1. Nice overview. It's Ram McAllister, not Rom (although it's pronounced Rom) (I attended Niagara College with Ram and Brent)