Five years ago, we moved to a city that featured a grand total of zero breweries. With a population of over 500,000, Hamilton, Ontario was a barren wasteland for locally produced, independently owned beer.
This weekend, Hamilton’s fourth craft brewery – Fairweather Brewing – opened its doors.
Hamilton’s rapidly expanding brewery community is highlighted in a rarely explored corner of the city. On an unassuming road in the city’s west end, filled with both active and empty industrial buildings, Fairweather has created a beautiful brewery. And it’s literally a 30 second walk from Grain & Grit Beer Co., who will be opening later this year. It’s the perfect example of how craft beer is part of Hamilton’s revival.
Fairweather opened their doors for the first time at 11 a.m. on May 26. I walked in an hour later. Leaving was not easy.
When you’ve been to enough brewery launches, or when you’ve worked at one, you know there are only two customer compliments that matter.
- “Your beer is amazing”
- “It feels like you’ve been open for years”
Breweries are very difficult businesses to operate. Brewing beer worthy of praise doesn’t just happen. You need to be exceedingly talented as a brewer and committed to the entire brewing process. Equipment can fail, recipes might not scale up well and mistakes can happen. And if brewing the beer wasn’t enough work, you also need to deliver a top-notch customer experience. Your taproom needs to look good and have enough seating, your taps need to be pouring properly and your front line staff need to be knowledgeable and engaging.
When you take all that into consideration, is there any surprise that so many brewery launch days are forgettable?
So, how was Fairweather’s launch? I have just two things to say:
- Their beer was amazing.
- It felt like they had been open for years.
This is what happens when three experienced brewers open a brewery. Dan Ryan, Ram McAllister and Brent Milcz are not new to craft beer. McAllister and Milcz both completed the Brewmaster program at Niagara College and Ryan has been homebrewing for years. Their experience is obvious at Fairweather.
Sitting in the bright, beautiful taproom, I felt right at home. Everyone was friendly, the equipment all appeared to be working perfectly and the selection of beer was excellent. They’ve launched with six beers on tap and a seventh almost ready to release.
Their bottle shop will be opening soon and I’m really excited to get back and stock up.
After doing some tasting, I have to highlight two of their beers.
This is the beer of hard workers. Meant to quench the thirst of busy farmers, grisette is a style that seems to be making a comeback. Fairweather has created something wonderful in this beer. Very drinkable, but still has some personality. There’s just enough bite to make you smile with every sip. Without a doubt, this is going to be my new “always have one in the fridge” beer.
This is their oatmeal stout. Again – wow! So dark, smells amazing and the name perfectly describes the drinking experience. This one tastes so good on tap. I could spend hours sipping on a pint of this beautiful beer.
The diversity of their tap list is wonderful for a new brewery. Opening day also featured a pale ale, an IPA, a saison and a kettle sour.
These guys clearly like to experiment, so regular visits will be necessary to see what they’ve come up with next.
For me, Fairweather delivered a textbook brewery launch. You need to visit this brewery. Not just because they are new, but because they’re doing things right.
Behind all those steel mills, Hamilton has become an impressive craft beer destination. Unlike when we arrived in this city, a single day just isn’t enough time to brewtrip Hamilton properly. So, start planning your trip to Hamilton – you’re missing out on some amazing beer!
Note: There are also two contract breweries in Hamilton to go along with the four bricks-and-mortar breweries.