Until recently, Hamilton’s east waterfront featured steel plants and not a whole much else worth visiting. But nestled in the neighbourhood is one of Hamilton’s must-visit places: Collective Arts brewery.

The craft beer company started in 2013 by Matt Johnston and Bob Russell moved their brewery operations to the Hamilton waterfront area and opened it in November 2015. They moved in to the old Lakeport brewery, which was closed and stripped down in 2010 after Labatt bought the company.

Collective Arts combines beers and artwork. They take submissions from around the world for designs on their bottles and cans, changing the artwork every few months or so. Consumers can scan the artwork on the bottle using the Blippar app to learn more about the music or artist featured on the product.

To visit Collective Arts is to get a first-hand experience of why people are so passionate about the city of Hamilton. The Hammer is marred by a reputation of being a dirty, smelly town that has been reeling since the steel industry left. But Collective Arts is a success story, taking a place that had been discarded by corporate giants and reimagining the space as a cultural hub.

The brewery has been renovated to be more than just a place that makes beers. The entrance is a rustic bar/retail space, where you can sit and enjoy a pint or get a 24 for the weekend. They host all their bottle designs in one room where you can easily spend half an hour just looking at all the art.

As part of their renovations, the brewery created an event venue within the brewery’s walls. The space can host concerts (like the August 12 Hollerado show), weddings, and even yoga events. When I went on a brewery tour, they had created temporary walls with boxes of beer. While it sounds odd, the bright colours of the boxes created an intimate space.

This past summer, they opened a beer garden in the back of the brewery. They have nine beers on tap and while I did not stop for a drink when I was there, I plan on visiting it (especially because the patio is dog-friendly).

Collective Arts offers brewery tours on Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. These are worth every minute, as the staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to answer all my questions, no matter how ridiculous. Here, they walk you through the brewing and bottling process, as well as explaining the history of the company and the craft brewery industry.

What Collective Arts has accomplished in the space is impressive, especially considering that the building sat vacant for a few years. As Hamilton grows as an arts city, the brewery will likely only grow in popularity. Get ahead of the bandwagon and visit Collective Arts as soon as you can.

Photo: I Heart Hamilton

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