Hamilton is cool.
It feels weird to say that, but it is becoming increasingly harder to deny. The place has some great craft beer bars like Brux House, a good festival scene with great events like the Because Beer festival and a growing selection of breweries in the surrounding area. While it’s not saying all that much, it’s enough to make a thirsty writer in London a little jealous.
And now I have one more reason to be jealous. Yesterday it was announced that MERIT Brewing Company would be opening its doors at 107 James St. North.
Headed up by Aaron Spinney, Tej Sandhu, and Jesse Vallins, the new brewery will feature a 14 line taproom and a kitchen focused on “sausage and beer friendly bites.” Additionally, the space boasts a large patio and a retail space that will offer 500ml bottles and growlers.
Sandhua and Spinney are friends who met in school in the area and Vallins is the Executive Chef at Maple Leaf Tavern. Spinney, who was part of Niagara College’s brewing program’s first graduating class, spent some time as the head brewer for Gravenhurst’s Sawdust City Brewery, and then worked full time for Sessions Craft Canning, Ontario’s first mobile beer and cider canning company.
I talked to Spinney about what sorts of beer styles we might expect from MERIT.
“The styles are experimental but respecting traditions through mash regimes and kettle additions,” he tells me (via Facebook messenger). “We’ll be focusing on tea beers, wild fermentations, herbs spice and kombucha infusions, salt induced lacto fermented fruit infusions, Belgian beers, IPAs, and stouts, English beers with tea” Spinney calls the approach “a bit of tradition with my own twist.” He says, “Traditional brewing is lovely and we wouldn’t be here today without it, but it’s been done before, so let’s try something new.”
MERIT’s opening tap list will feature a lot of Belgian influenced beers but Spinney says there will leave room for “freedom for everything and anything.”
The head brewer will be working with a 15bbl (17.5hl) brewhouse and is aiming for a 1200-1700hl output in his first year. “We don’t wanna say we’re gonna be amazing or going to reinvent the wheel,” he says, “We wanna prove it.”
While the actual doors open date is TBD, Hamilton beer drinkers will be able to put Spinney’s offerings to the test very soon.