Over the past few years, Hamilton has become one of the premier spots in Southern Ontario for craft beer. New craft breweries are popping up every year to keep up with the surge of craft beer fans in Hamilton and the surrounding area. As we head into the weekend, there’s no better time to find your new favourite beverage.
Here’s our 2018 list for Hamilton’s 10 best LOCAL places to get craft beer.
Along with The French and Brux House, Nique is a new restaurant providing a more upscale casual dining experience in Hamilton. Their food portions are on the smaller side but it’s all internationally inspired which makes for some really neat dishes to pair your drink with. And they of course have a great selection of beer from across Ontario to pick from.
Our pick: They have four rotating taps and an impressive list of bottles and cans. I recommend getting whatever is on draught from Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery. Last time I was there I had their Cat Lady IPA with some sushi nachos and it was amazing! You can find Nique’s semi-regularly updated beer list here.
Located conveniently by its neighbour Fairweather Brewing Co., Grain & Grit is another impressive newcomer to the Hamilton craft beer scene. Its small taproom, white painted walls and high ceilings give it a cozy, trendy feel. They already sell an impressive amount of swag in their shop including t-shirts featuring art from their regular line-up of beers as well as cans ready to bring home. While they don’t have quite the selection of beer that Fairweather has yet, I look forward to this brewery releasing some new, tasty beers in the coming winter months.
Our pick: All the coffee fans out there need to try their Breakfast Milk Stout. Infused with local coffee beans from Grupetto in Dundas, it’s so tasty you might want to have it for breakfast! (not recommended)
Clifford has been providing delicious beer to nearly a hundred licensed establishments since 2015. However, in a way they are the newest brewery on this list as they just moved into a permanent location on Nash Road only a few months ago. It will be open to the public later this January and I’m excited to see what new beers they come up with. Until then, their beer is available in bars and LCBOs across southern Ontario.
Our pick: They only make two beers, so you might as well have them both. But if you can only have one, make it the Clifford Porter. It’s a complex, full-bodied porter loaded with coffee and chocolate flavours. Makes a nice liquid dessert!
Augusta Duo: The Ship & Winking Judge
If you’re looking for craft beer on Augusta Street, The Ship as well as its neighbour Winking Judge, are the spots to go to. While The Ship has two levels, it’s still quite small, so make sure you budget some wait time for a table if you’re coming as a large group. The Ship’s specialty is their gourmet burgers, and while I wouldn’t rate them as highly as the burgers at HAMBRGR, they’re pretty darn close. Their back patio is also a great space, especially when it’s lit up at night! Right beside The Ship is Hamilton’s OG craft beer establishment Winking Judge with 22 taps and perhaps the widest local beer selection around. May as well hit up both while you’re on Augusta!
Our pick: The Ship has always been a big supporter of Etobicoke’s Great Lakes Brewery, which works out great because so have I! You might be able to grab the last of this season’s delicious Karma Citra IPA before we head too far into winter and start seeing the also great Lake Effect IPA instead. The Apocalypse Later burger is unreal if you can handle spice!
Having acquired the old Lakeport Brewery on Burlington St. in partnership with Nickel Brook in 2014, Collective Arts is the most established craft brewery on the list. They offer a wide selection of beers for any craft beer fan, from light blonde ales to big, juicy IPAs. Collective Arts puts a big focus on supporting both local and international artists, whether they’re featuring visual artists’ work on their labels or hosting live music events inside the brewery itself! Their Beer Garden is also the best place in the city to hang out and drink some cold ones outdoors.
Our pick: Whatever they have available in their seasonal Collective Project series. Currently that would be their fantastic IPA No. 4, a hazy, tropical IPA brewed with Hallertau Blanc, Citra and Mosaic hops.
When it comes to the perfect location in Hamilton for a craft brewery, MERIT nailed it. Another newcomer within the past year, this brewery is located right at James and Wilson across from the August 8 plaza. This one’s for the real craft beer nerds as they are constantly experimenting with their brews and do little to appeal to the casual beer fan. Fortunately, MERIT is just as passionate about their food as they are with their beer; their sausages are the best in town!
Our pick: MERIT is another brewery that is constantly releasing new beers, however Chanan is one of their mainstays. It’s a dry-hopped saison with orange peel and coriander, which is essentially a hybrid of everything trendy in beer right now. Have it with a butter chicken sausage on naan bread, yum!
While the word brewery is in their name, Rust City doesn’t actually make their own beer yet. It’s coming soon, but they are currently jumping through the same legal hurdles MERIT went through to open up shop in downtown Hamilton. Regardless, I love this place! They tend to get beer from unique breweries I haven’t heard of before, like Muddy York Brewing Co. and Blood Brothers Brewing; both out of Toronto. If you’re looking for a spot to enjoy some beers in a café-like environment where the music isn’t so loud you’re shouting at each other, this is the place.
Our pick: Their selection is constantly changing but a regularly updated menu can be found here. If you’re feeling a little daring, they currently have a 9.1% Double Imperial IPA from Rouge River Brewing Company called Dankster’s Paradise that you may want to try out.
Fairweather has only been open since May of 2017 but they have already established themselves as one of the top breweries in the city. They have ten taps with a constantly rotating selection of beers ranging from IPAs to sours, saisons to porters. If you find yourself in the McMaster area, this and Grain & Grit (only a two minute walk away) are musts for grabbing your craft beer fix.
Our pick: Since their selection changes so much, get whatever strikes your fancy. Their menu does a great job explaining each beer, however if you’re an IPA fan you can’t go wrong with their flagship High Grade IPA.
It was very hard for me to determine a winner between these last two, as I love them both for different reasons. Brux House has more of a fine dining vibe going on, making it the perfect place to take a craft beer fan on a nice date. Brux House has sixteen (!) rotating taps with arguably the most varied beer selection in the city. While their food is a bit on the pricey side, the quality is incredible and you definitely get what you pay for.
Our pick: Their beer list can be found here. Take the opportunity to have something you can’t find elsewhere, like a Belgian sour or a limited, barrel-aged selection. In terms of food, the Brux Burger is great and their whole fried broccoli is one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had!
How does one explain what makes The Brain such a great bar? Is it the fourteen taps that change up almost every day, the dimly lit, relaxing vibe or the friendliness of the staff and regulars every time I drop in? I like to think that it’s a combination of all of these things. Located on James St. N near the Mulberry Coffeehouse and across from the armoury, The Brain is the ultimate hangout spot for craft beer lovers in Hamilton. I’ve been told their cocktails are fantastic too!
Our pick: The Brain is pretty good at updating what’s pouring in real time here. However, one beer you can always count on them having is Bellwoods’ Jelly King. Arguably the best sour beer brewed in Ontario, it seems to have a cult following here and for good reason!
Been to any of these? Unlock them!
What changes would you make to our list? Let us know in the comments!
Header image courtesy of MERIT Brewery