Collective Arts Brewing: Beyond The Bottle

An Underdog Story

Hamilton natives and Collective Arts Brewing co-founders, Bob Russell and Matt Johnston, have always cheered for the underdog. Formerly home to Lakeport Brewery, the waterfront property on Hamilton’s Burlington Street East needed some – okay, a lot – of TLC.

“You had to close your eyes and dream,” explains Johnston. “The previous infrastructure needed new drain work and several coats of paint, but it had a good soul.”

Factory smoke stacks to the east and the creative renaissance of James Street North paint the perfect canvas for this unpretentious microbrewery. Since opening its doors in November 2015, the renewed 10,000 square-foot venue acts as part bottle shop, part tasting bar, part brewery and part concert hall.

And what better place to launch a new series of homestyle brew than in your own backyard? Their neighbourhood open houses and concerts have hosted Canadian headliners like The Strumbellas, The Darcys and Grand Analog to eager crowds of beer drinkers and art lovers hailing all the way from Detroit to Montreal.

“We hate the status quo, and having worked with emerging artists, we understand the battle to be seen and heard. Craft beer labels felt like the perfect creative medium to champion grassroots talent.”– Matt Johnston, co-founder 

Arts & Craft Beer

Music, art and beer; a satiable combination. At Collective Arts Brewing, a thirst to blend all three passions has untapped an intimate experience that reaches beyond the label. In partnering with the app Blippar, each bottle exhibits a unique piece of visual art, animation, short film or music to be scanned and experienced. For many artists working tirelessly to gain exposure, this concept has turned an imagined pipe dream into a reality.

“We hate the status quo, and having worked with emerging artists, we understand the battle to be seen and heard,” says Matt. “Craft beer labels felt like the perfect creative medium to champion grassroots talent.”

Two years later, a venture that Matt’s friends once jokingly called, “a niche student art project,” has evolved into a masterpiece. Adjacent to the tap room, a bottle gallery displays over 420 unique pieces of art from 38 different countries. The result of thousands of global art submissions that have been reviewed and stripped down into 80 different labels, per series. Now on their 6th series, Collective Arts has paid over $100,000 in stipends towards featured artists.



For The Love of Beer

But this art project’s inspiration would run dry without the main ingredient: beer. With over 10 years of industry experience, Matt is a big believer that brewing craft beer is “its own form of art.”

Staying true to Collective Arts’ roots, Brewmaster Ryan Morrow is constantly innovating, evolving and updating their flavours. At any given time, a rich portfolio of seven different tastes are available on tap, ranging from blonde ales to dark IPAs. A fan favourite is their flagship beer, Rhyme & Reason, an extra pale ale blended with Citra, Centennial, Chinook and Simcoe hops that will give you all the feels.

Drop by to fill your growler, pick up a case of cans or bottles, browse their art gallery or schedule a weekend distillery tour.  A refreshing mix of music, art and beer will cure whatever ales you.


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