The craft beer boom continues to reverberate, and Hamilton has cemented itself as a coveted destination for some of the best small-batch beers in the entire province.
Constantly pushing boundaries and innovating, the craft beer industry is one full of surprises, with breweries often balancing out mainstay takes on classic styles with experimental fare that challenges preconceived notions of what a beer can be.
From breweries to beer-focused bars, here’s our list of the 10 best spots for craft beer in Hamilton!
With its inviting new cider house and tap room on Frid Street, Steel Town Cider Co. has been known as an exceptional cidery for a few years now; and they’ve recently added craft beer to their range of potables.
Through their Hold Fast Brewing Co. side project, expect well-crafted micro-batches of beer in both traditional and modern styles, from pale ales to lagers and more. The craft ciders may be the main draw here, but don’t sleep on the beers.
Ancaster’s craft brewery and elevated pub takes up residence in the former home of Rousseau House, offering up a tidy range of beer brewed onsite alongside an attractive menu of wood-fired pizzas, burgers, share plates, and more.
Well-crafted takes on traditional styles like pale ales, cream ales, porters, and English-style bitters are among the flagship offerings here, and Brewers Blackbird often has a seasonal feature or two on tap as well. Pair that with some bar bites on their large patio, and you’re in business. They also offer their beer in cans to-go for retail!
The only entry on this list that isn’t a brewery itself, but The Brain earns its spot here thanks to its commitment to having one of the most robust and eclectic tap lists and bottle fridges in Hamilton.
Behind its eye-catching yellow facade on James North is a cozy hole-in-the-wall that always has a diverse range of more than a dozen craft beers on tap, prioritizing standout offerings from Ontario’s most well-respected breweries like Great Lakes, Willibald, Sonnen Hill, Bellwoods, or Third Moon. The lineup is always changing, making The Brain worthy of many, many repeat visits.
With so many breweries focused on bold and hop-forward beer styles, Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. offers up a refreshing change of pace.
This Dundas brewery focuses on well-crafted, no-nonense lagers, and they do them extremely well in classic, amber, and dark styles alongside select seasonal offerings ranging from pale ales to porters. Served by the glass in their gorgeous taproom and brewhouse right off the downtown strip inside the old Dundas Curling and Skating Rink, Shawn & Ed also has a menu of casual bites like sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and shareable dishes like chips and dip.
It’s fitting that MERIT Brewing’s logo is a lightbulb, given how the brewery has earned a reputation for innovative beers crafted thoughtfully.
Their European beerhall-style tap room on James North has been a popular gathering spot since MERIT first flung its doors open in 2017, with people from near and far sipping on hazy IPAs, light-yet-flavourful lagers, fruit-forward sour selections, and less conventional creations like beer-wine hybrids. Paired with MERIT’s famous house-made sausages, fries, and snacks like house pickles or mac & cheese, you’ve got all the makings for a delicious experience.
East Hamilton’s Clifford Brewing is a seriously underrated spot specializing largely in excellent, accessible takes on old-world beer styles.
With a sizeable list of flagships and limited releases, Clifford knows its way around an IPA, Euro-style lager, or English bitter. But the brewery is best known for its multi-award-winning Clifford Porter: a dark beer with harmonized notes of dark chocolate, coffee, and vanilla that manages to be complex and full-bodied while also being easy-drinking.
One of the Hamilton area’s newest craft breweries is also one of its most unique.
Barrel Heart Brewing specializes exclusively in a sophisticated, long-form approach to craft beer, brewing old-world saisons; aging them in oak wine barrels; and re-fermenting them on fruits like plums, Niagara cherries, or blackcurrants. The resulting beers are ones you slow-sip and consider like a complex fine wine rather than crush like a chilled light lager. With a recently opened retail shop and tap room in Ancaster, Barrel Heart Brewing is well worth a visit for those looking for something special.
Grain & Grit is probably Hamilton’s most community focused craft brewery. Not only do they regularly have events like themed parties, trivia, open mic nights, and food pop-ups at their cozy West Hamilton brewery and tap room, but they also make great small-batch beer in an ever-changing range of styles.
Hazy IPAs and fruited sours tend to dominate the tap list here, but Grain & Grit is also known to whip up a solid stout, pilsner, or English ale from time to time as well. Pull up to their Ewen Road facility for a pint or two, and you’re almost guaranteed to find something else fun going on as well.
Located literal steps away from Grain & Grit Beer Co., Fairweather Brewing has earned a reputation that extends far beyond Hamilton’s borders.
All it takes is one sip of their beer for the reason to become abundantly clear: Fairweather has become a name synonymous with expertly-crafted IPAs, sours, saisons, porters, and more that hold their own among some of the best in Ontario. Mainstays like their High Grade IPA and Silky oat porter continue to impress, and Fairweather is known to constantly pump out one-off releases that are just as memorable.
A trailblazer for Hamilton’s modern craft brewing scene, Collective Arts Brewing’s home in the former Lakeport Brewing facility in the north end has been on a stratospheric rise in recent years.
Best known for featuring the works of emerging visual artists on their cans and bottles, Collective Arts makes some of the most reliably great craft beer around, from easygoing crushers to robust barrel-aged fare and beyond. Their beer has reached shelves well outside of Hamilton and even beyond Canada’s borders in places like the USA, Italy, France, Spain, and Sweden.
Collective Arts has expanded to spirits, canned cocktails, coffee beans, and even cannabis products in recent years; but it’s the beer that started it all.
Honourable Mentions: Durand Bottle Shop, Endless Bar, The Ship, Sunny Corner Bar, The Judge, 1101 Convenience.
What changes would you make to our list? Let us know in the comments!
Ray Love10.03.2023 10:35 pm
Fairweather is the best of them, probably the best in Ontario (yes I know of Bellwoods) might even be best in Canada.