When Collective Arts Brewing CEO and co-founder Matt Johnston launched his business in 2013, he incorporated a few of his favourite things: music, art and beer. His hometown of Hamilton with its thriving creative culture, industrial roots and ongoing cultural renaissance, made it a natural place to set up shop. Here he shares his favourite local haunts.

Best beer

“Obviously, right here in the Collective Arts tasting room is a great place to have a beer, since it’s the only spot where you can sample our entire portfolio. There’s also The Brain on James Street North, which has an eclectic mix of craft beer. Or Brux House on Locke Street and The Ship on Augusta Street.”

Outdoor activities

“Hamilton has great hiking trails and waterfalls. I take my kids to the Escarpment Rail Trail built along an old abandoned CN line. I force them to climb all those stairs going up the escarpment. Or I go down to the waterfront near Pier 4 Park. It’s like an escape from the city. It feels so removed.”

Comfort food

“When I want comfort food, I get a #HAMONT burger at HAMBRGR—two patties with American cheese and bacon. I have friends who come into town just for that. Or I get soup and cucumber salad from The Burnt Tongue when it is available.”

The #HAMONT burger from HAMBRGR

Live music

“I love music, pretty much everything across the board, but alt-rock is my happy place. I like to hang out at This Ain’t Hollywood because you get every style of music possible. The Casbah and Mills Hardware are also good. Lots of interesting acts play there.”

Go-to takeout

“For takeout, I head to Bonanza Bakery, a Portuguese place on Murray Street. It’s basically just a house in the middle of a neighbourhood. It has been there forever. Anyone who has lived in Hamilton knows it. They do amazing subs, but my go-to is chicken Parmesan.”

Coffee fix

“People can find me at the Mulberry Coffeehouse when I’m not in the office. It’s where I may start my day with a Westender breakfast sandwich: a fried egg, havarti, tomato, caramelized onions and arugula on a homemade bun. I also love that this place goes from serving coffee in the morning to craft beer in the evening.”

Art stop

“During Art Crawl [every second Friday of the month on James Street N.], the streets come alive, filled with people supporting the city.”

Getting there: WestJet flies to Hamilton 23 times a week from four Canadian cities, one U.S. and one international city.