Looking to visit the best Hamilton breweries and craft cider producers?
Our comprehensive guide to Hamilton breweries features detailed profiles for all 7 Hamilton breweries. Ontario beer lovers can easily visit these popular breweries in downtown Hamilton and nearby Dundas and Ancaster on a Toronto weekend getaway or day trip.
Our Hamilton beer guide also include details for one of Ontario’s best cider houses, West Avenue Cider. Perfect for thirsty apple lovers and gluten-free fans.
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Hamilton Breweries History
Dobbernationloves sat down with Hamilton brewery expert Jordan St. John to chat about the city’s brewing history. St. John is the co-author of the Ontario Craft Beer Guide, head of the Beer Certificate at George Brown College and hosts a popular Toronto brewery tour.
St. John explained that it’s hard to know what Hamilton’s first brewery would have been. “Toronto was the administrative capital of Upper Canada, and Hamilton, while it has a natural harbour, was more of a path for inland development. That said, the original settlements would have been around the harbour. Any time you’ve got shipping, you’ve got beer. Hamilton was no exception,” said St. John.
So how are the Hamilton breweries unique in Ontario? St. John shared, “Hamilton is more representative of the divide between English and German brewing techniques than any other city in Ontario. At one point Hamilton had some of the largest cellars in the world for the production of Stock Ale. That’s an aged variant of Pale Ale that comes out as something of a hybrid beer. It’s stored in order to mellow it out. It was also home to the Peller Brewery. The family that owned that brewery has since gone into the wine business, but the Peller Brewery has been repurposed over the years to produce Amstel, Henninger, and Lakeport. Lakeport led the sector on discount lagers in the province of Ontario up until 2007. At that point, the plant was purchased by Labatt and decommissioned with extreme prejudice.”
The Hamilton breweries have experienced an explosion in craft beer options. St. John shared, “Hamilton might be the best beer city in Ontario per capita. Collective Arts is now in the old Lakeport plant and produce some of the best hazy IPAs in Canada. They’re also available in various parts of the United States, making them one of Canada’s most recognized brands. Merit on James Street North is becoming a neighbourhood fixture with an eclectic menu of beers. Try Merit’s Chanan; a postmodern hybrid of Belgian Witbier and IPA. There’s also Clifford Brewing, which was the Canadian Brewery of the Year in 2019. Their Porter is consistently one of the best in the world.”
If you’re looking to organize a tour of the Hamilton breweries, St. John suggests breaking your crawl into groups. “Local darlings Fairweather and Grain & Grit are right down the street from each other, and Merit and Collective Arts are within walking distance. If you’re getting into town via bus or go train, consider The Ship, which is right next to the station. You might also consider Augusta’s Winking Judge pub, which is right next door. It’s sort of an old man bar, but they’re quite genial old men,” said St. John.
Hotels Near the Hamilton Breweries
If you’re planning a tour of the Hamilton breweries book a weekend getaway at one of our favourite local hotels.
- Courtyard By Marriott Hamilton: this affordable 3 star hotel features comfy rooms, restaurant, gym and indoor pool. Check Reviews
- The Barracks Inn: this boutique hotel is located in the scenic town of Ancaster and features luxurious suites, outdoor terrace and complimentary breakfast. Check Reviews
- Sheraton Hamilton Hotel: this corporate hotel features chic guest rooms, restaurant, indoor pool and gym. Check Reviews
Hamilton Craft Beer Festivals
If you’re an Ontario craft beer fan why not plan your visit around a fun festival featuring the the best Hamilton breweries?
- Collective Arts Festival: Hamilton’s popular craft brewery hosts an annual beer festival each June featuring 50+ brewers, live mural painting and local music.
- Because Beer: Another popular Hamilton beer festival, located right on the waterfront at Pier 4 Park from the folks that dreamed up the wildly popular Supercrawl.
Best Hamilton Breweries
In recent years, Hamilton has become one of Ontario’s most celebrated craft beer producers. The city’s youthful vibe offers a creative space for entrepreneurs to launch art shops, friendly restaurants, hipster coffee shops and trendy beer bars.
We visited all 7 Hamilton breweries and West Avenue Cider on one very busy summer day. Visiting all of the Hamilton breweries in a day is totally doable if you’re in the mood for hopping around for a quick sip at each spot. For a more relaxing sud-sloshed adventure, we’d suggest splitting the craft breweries into a two day itinerary.
For beer lovers in the GTA, Hamilton offers an idyllic weekend getaway!
Collective Arts Brewing
207 Burlington St E, 289-426-2374
Collective Arts was founded by Matt Jonhnston and Bob Russell after the two had worked together in the beer industry, Bob on the creative side and Matt on the beer side. Collective Arts launched in September, 2013 and opened their own brewing facility in June, 2015 in Hamilton.
The brewery itself has a long history in beverage manufacturing. It was first inhabited by Andrew Peller, and most recently before Collective Arts took the keys it was run by Lakeport.
Over the years the duo had come up with the idea to work with artists and use beer labels to create the world’s most refreshing art gallery. Collective Arts was founded on the belief that creativity can make the world a better place. Collective alludes to a group who are working together for a common goal. Toni Shelton, the Hamilton Brewery’s Brand Marketing & Communications Director shared, “We are an artist-first organization and all of those reasons are how Collective Arts was born.”
Shelton added, “Our small taproom and retail space is meant to be a blank canvas to showcase the talents of the artists we collaborate with. In our taproom in Hamilton, we have a gallery room that is home to all of the limited-edition pieces of art that we’ve featured since we started. Our Beergarden is surrounded by commissioned murals – we are in a very industrial part of town and it’s not so lovely to look at, so we’re trying to bring some colour to the North End and to create a vibrant patio experience.”
There are anywhere from 10-15 core range beers available at any time and the Hamilton brewer releases 40-50 one-off beers every year. Collective Arts’ most popular seasonal is its Guava Gose, now a recurring summer rotational brew.
Brewery tours run on weekends for $15 and include your first beer. The tours run around 45 minutes and will give guests a crash course on how Collective Arts came to be and how they make fresh craft beer.
The popular brewery in Hamilton has partnered with Nom Nom Nom Catering to serve snacks on the Beergarden that pair well with a freshly poured pint. The Beergarden is open Thursday-Sunday.
107 James St N, 905-393-1024
Merit Brewing first opened in May, 2017 and was founded by Tej Sandhu, Aaron Spinney, and Jesse Vallins.
Tej and Aaron met in Hamilton while attending school. After their careers had them living apart the duo decided the time was right to create the brewery they dreamed of years ago. During those years apart Aaron had been busy brewing in Halifax at Garrison Brewing, Barrie at Flying Monkeys and Muskoka at Sawdust City.
Merit is named after Tej’s grandfather’s furniture store. They used Merit Furniture as a way to help their village in India. They initially used proceeds from the business to send back home to help build infrastructure for the city. They eventually realized they could bring families from India to Canada to help facilitate the same opportunities they had when they immigrated.
Tej explained, “We decided to name our brewery Merit as a reminder to ourselves that our business can be used for good; not just as a way to sell beer and food, but to impact our community. Working with organizations that help the most in-need Hamiltonians is at the core of our goals.”
Merit Brewing in Hamilton is located on a site previously home to Mex-I-Can restaurant. All of the wood was sourced from the Dominon Glass Factory, a now defunct local factory. Tej added, “We employed the Japanese wood burning technique called sho sugi ban, where we burn the wood before using it. We like that this symbolizes the evolution of industry and the ability to turn industry into art. The space is lit entirely by Edison bulbs, a bit of a tongue in cheek nod to Edison & Tesla’s disagreements.”
Visit Merit Brewing and you’ll find 10 craft beers on tap as well as a rotating cider and Vineland Estates wine from nearby Beamsville.
Tej shared, “We have three beers that are always available: Young Rival IPA, Chanan Dry Hopped Saison and SVP, a French Table Beer. We always have a couple sours on tap and increasingly have been working on beer-wine hybrids. We work closely with Rosewood Winery to produce a few unique hybrids like a series of Orange Wine Lagers, a smoked vine and Cab Franc Saison, and Gamay Gose.”
Jesse Vallins has been an integral part of building Merit Brewing’s food and beverage experience. He’s the Executive Chef at Maple Leaf Tavern and is a partner at Merit Brewing. Chef Vallins is well known for his sausages and at Merit Brewing he’s works with Shawn McKinnon to create a globally inspired sausage menu. The popular Butter Chicken Sausage is served on naan with a mango chutney, Tej’s family Tikka Masala sauce.
Grain & Grit Beer Co
11 Ewen Rd, 905-769-1320
Joe and Lindsey Mrav opened Grain & Grit Beer Co in October, 2017. The Hamilton couple who have always loved craft beer made their dream a reality after hiring Alex Sporn as Head Brewer.
The Hamilton brewery’s name comes from the quote, “Your dreams are on the other side of your grit.” The Mrav’s were thinking about the ingredients that it takes to start a brewery, and happily settled on Grain & Grit.
They both designed the layout of the space, while Lindsey focused on the interior elements. The building used to be a mechanic garage, and before that, it was a gas station with a snack bar.
Lindsey shared, “We love the industrial character of the space, particularly the extra-large bay doors. The original doors were wood, and we changed them out to glass doors, which really open up the space and create an indoor-outdoor vibe. We repurposed the old Muffler Bay sign from the old mechanic garage, and put it inside the tap room. It’s become one of our favourite design elements.”
Graint & Grit Brewery offers 8 taps, “Most of our beers are one-off batches, but we do bring back popular beers again and again. There are no rules here, and that’s what makes it fun and interesting for us and our customers. A few of the beers that we brew often: In the Palms IPA with fruit and lactose, Thrillsner Dry-Hopped Pils and Berry Good Sour Ale with fruit and lactose,” said Lindsey.
Looking to book a group tour at one of the Hamilton breweries? Grain & Grit offers brewery tours for groups of 6 or more, by appointment only. The educational tours are given by Joe or Alex and showcase the brewing process, the breweries unique story and offer participants a guided tasting of three samples of beer for $10 per person.
The Hamilton brewery does not have a restaurant on site but does host local food vendors for pop-ups frequently.
Fairweather Brewing Co
5 Ofield Rd, 905-570-0606
Fairweather Brewing opened in May, 2017 in Hamilton.
The popular craft brewery was founded collaboratively by Ram McAllister, formerly of Hoyne Brewing Co, Brent Milcz, formerly of Boshkung Brewing Co. and Niagara College grad, and Dan Ryan, a passionate home brewer with over a decade of experience in chemical engineering.
Sean and Ram worked together in Victoria, British Columbia and had discussed opening a brewery in Ontario for years. When an opportunity presented itself in 2015, Sean expanded his brewery, leaving some start-up size equipment unused. The team developed a plan to get the equipment to Ontario, and quickly put it to use brewing the beers that would come to define Fairweather Brewing.
The Hamilton Brewery was originally a printing company. McAllister shared, “It had fallen into disrepair, and with some help from our landlord, we brought it back to code. The founding members designed every element of the brewery’s aesthetic collaboratively. The whole bar, patio and tables were made by us, and the art on the walls was created by my wife, Maya Kamo, who also does all of the label designs.”
Visit the Hamilton Brewery and you’ll find 10 rotating taps. Fairweather Brewing makes two beers, High Grade (an american style IPA) and Dream Pop (Dry hopped sour ale) all year round.
Notable limited releases include a series of Lemonade inspired sour beers, called beki, and Wishing Well, an imperial stout released annually during the holidays.
Shawn & Ed Brewing Co
65 Hatt St, 289-238-9979
Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. opened its doors in April, 2016. Shawn Till and Ed Madronich are long time pals and former MacMaster alumni who always dreamed of owning their own craft brewery in Hamilton.
The brewery building has a unique history in Canada. Jenna Anderson, Director of Marketing explained, “we often compare our buildings history to the Forest Gump film as there are so many touch points with Canadian history. In the late 1800s it was one of the first curling and skating rinks, which operated with no electricity. Flash forward to the automotive boom in Hamilton, our building became a bus maintenance shelter. The bus scrolls hang proudly around our space today. Following this time when many items were still made in Canada we were owned by Valley City Furniture and for a brief period our building was where Canadian crokinole boards were made.”
Visit Shawn & Ed Breiwng Co in Hamilton and you’ll find 10 taps at the craft beer bar. Anderson shared, “We have our everyday items which include LagerShed Original, LagerShed Light, LagerShed Dark and BarrelShed Amber. In addition, we have 4-6 rotating seasonals, which aare part of our Anvil Small Batch Series and range depending on the time of the year. Our fan favorites are Cherry Lager, Valley Wheat, OctoberShed and WinterShed.”
Those looking to tour one of the Hamilton Breweries can select from $5, $10 or $15 itineraries. The prices fluctuate based on the beer selection the customer is keen to sample.
398 Nash Rd N #1, 905-560-5444
Brad Clifford first launched Clifford Brewing Company in Hamilton in January, 2015. The new brewery opened in the Fall of 2017, while its taproom and retail store welcomed guests in 2018.
The space was formerly a mattress factory and when purchased was just an open industrial space. Clifford Brewing’s interior was brought together as a collective effort by Brad’s friends and family. The interior has been decorated with reclaimed wood and industrial metal.
Visit Clifford Brewing and you’ll find 8 taps at the craft beer bar. Owner Brad Clifford shared, “We currently brew Clifford Porter, Pinball Wizard APA, and Devils Punchbowl ISL consistently. We have a few other award winning beers that we brew fairly regularly, also some brewery favourites like our Vienna Lager, Marigold Belgian Golden, Brokedown Pallet Hazy IPA, and Artificial Paradise IPA.”
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375 Wilson St E, 905-648-8863
Brewers Blackbird is a fine dining restaurant and craft brewery located in the heart of scenic Ancaster. Owners Mark Gibson and Andrew Kershaw first opened Brewers Blackbird in December, 2019.
Gibson shared the story behind the Hamilton brewery’s name, “John Lenin and the Beatles wrote a song called Blackbird. We felt it symbolized overcoming adversity. Our name kinda choose us.”
The popular restaurant and beer bar is located in a heritage home that was originally built by politician John Rousseau in 1834. Gibson added, “Jason Brouwer was the architect of our extension. We wanted to juxtapose the old with modern.”
Hop up at the bar and you’ll find 8 taps pouring suds by Master Brewer Ken Wood. Brewers Blackbird produces a flagship lager, bitter, IPA and APA, which are served in slender glasses like you find in Cologne, Germany.
If you’re feeling peckish, pair a cold pint with treats from Chef’s Dan Butcher and Ben Root. Highlights from the Brewers Blackbird menu include Wood Fired Oven Pizza,Smoked Brisket Nachos and Crispy Eggplant.
West Avenue Cider House
84 Concession Rd 8 E, 289-324-0312
If you’re visiting Hamilton and need to pause from sipping hoppy beer, head to West Avenue Cider House to sample the regions best fermented apple juice.
Owners Amy Robson and Chris Haworth started West Avenue Cider House in downtown Toronto in 2012. Robson shared, “We rented a small space from our friends who own Pommies Cider. We began looking for a property right away, but didn’t discover the property in Hamilton and move in until 2015. We worked for 2 years to renovate and transform the space into the Cider House it is today. We opened our doors to the public in June, 2017.”
The West Avenue Cider House property was formerly a fruit & vegetable market and bakery. The building dates back to the 70’s. Ironically, in the 80 and 90’s’s if was an apple orchard and Farm Market. The previous owner retired in early 2000’s and ripped all his trees out. Robson added, “Pretty heartbreaking, but on the upside we knew the land would be good for planting apple trees. We’ve now planted 6000 heritage apple trees so far and are planting more every year.”
Haworth started developing recipes for West Avenue Cider House in 2009, and released the first batch commercially in 2012. Robson and Haworth believe in creating cider that is true and authentic and characteristic of the orchards terroir.
Robson explained, “We have always believed that if people can appreciate the difference between a chardonnay and sauvignon grape, then one day people would appreciate the difference between a Golden Russet Apple and a Ginger Gold Apple. We try and utilize the natural expression of the fruit itself, rather than depending on added sugar.” They also do a lot of experimenting: barrel aging, using Ontario grown and wild foraged fruit and innovative Ice Ciders.
Haworth, West Avenue Cider House’s resident cidermaker shared, “Hamilton has rich soil and is set upon limestone bedrock. The rock and climate is similar to the champagne growing regions in France, and many of our exciting ciders follow the traditional Champagne method. It ferments in the bottle and creates those beautiful small bubbles you enjoy when drinking champagne. They take years to make, but worth the wait!”
The cidery is set upon a 75 acre farm just north of Hamilton. Beyond apples, they also have an organic garden that grows vegetables used to make pickles and preserves. Robson shared, “We source gorgeous Ontario cheese, the vision was for people to sip and sample cider while enjoying a cheese plate with sourdough bread and pickles and preserves. We also have a bakery and make everything from scratch, fruit pies, sausage rolls, butter tarts and beyond!”
If it’s your first time visiting West Avenue Cider House order a tasting flights to sample up to 15 different craft ciders. The bar features 6 rotating tap lines and 10 bottles. Guests are also invited to stroll through the grounds, and travel the hiking paths thorough the forest at the back of the property.
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