Thousands toast to new brewery opening on old Lakeport site

Grand opening events at the new Arts and Science craft brewery on Burlington Street in Hamilton drew thousands on Saturday and Sunday. But there are still hurdles to jump.

Some permits still needed, brewery owner says

The brewery can handle producing 40,000 gallons of beer a year now. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

A specially brewed dry-hopped mango Berliner Weissebier-style beer filled commemorative steins at the grand opening of the new Arts and Science craft brewery in Hamilton on Saturday and Sunday. 

Most of the beers on tap weren't quite so quirky, but the creative one-off brew spoke to the experimental vibe of Nickel Brook Brewing Co. and Collective Arts Brewery.

The two craft companies joined forces to move their headquarters from their 15,000-square-foot Burlington site and take over 50,000 square feet in the reconfigured former Lakeport Brewing site. 

Saturday the brewery was packed with an estimated 5,000 people who came through for an open house and tasting in the afternoon and 2,000 for a concert on Saturday night. 

"There were 19-year-olds and there were 70-year-olds," said Nickel Brook cofounder John Romano. 

"Last night the love and the harmony and the beer flowing was unbelievable," Romano said Sunday, while he set up the brewery for a Ticats viewing party. "You dream about this stuff happening, and you don't think it's going to happen." 

Romano and his brother Peter started Nickel Brook in 2005. 

"Nickel Brook's almost 11 years old, and I'm going to say for the first five, six years we didn't feel that love," he said. 

'The community definitely wants this here'

John Romano, owner of Nickel Brook Brewing, said seeing thousands of people attend the new brewery's opening was a dream come true. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
The companies had some trouble getting into the site. They were caught in the middle of a fight between the city and the port over what entities must be consulted for building on port lands within city limits. The port, which serves as landlord on the project, finally applied for a building permit, which the city granted in May

While the city and the port say all the permits from their jurisdictions have been granted, Romano said the hurdles to get the space finished the way they want aren't all gone. 

"We got a permit to use the space, but it's going to need some more stuff done," he said.

"The port and the city need to be aware what happened (with the popular opening event) yesterday," Romano said. "And the community definitely wants this here."

Romano said members of the North End Neighbours group came through the event on Saturday, and he said the brewery owners are dreaming of holding farmers markets and community events at the space. 

The port saw the weekend's events as a confirmation the new project will be a "landmark and a people place in the west harbour," said Larissa Fenn, Hamilton Port Authority spokeswoman. 

Nickel Brook was making 15,000 barrels of beer a year in its Burlington location.

In the new building, Nickel Brook and Collective Arts can each brew 20,000. But the brewery can be built out to 100,000 gallons total, Romano said. 


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