Brews N Bands Craft Beer Festival
The Casbah 306 King Street West

I had never been to a beer tasting before, and it is something I had talked about doing. What better way to experience my first one than with The Casbah’s Brews N Bands, their first Craft Beer Festival! Casbah’s owner William “Brodie” Schwendiman had shared his excitement for the event with Avishka and I the last few times we’ve attended shows at Casbah, and it sounded like it was shaping up to be a great event and one not to miss. It was a solo mission for me this time around, and quite the mission, it was! A beer mission! If anyone out of the four of us were to tackle this one, it’d be me. Although it was a solo mish, I quickly made friends and had some great accomplices throughout the evening.

It was a fantastic set up – $25 per session (I opted for the evening one) got you 10 beer sample tickets, with the option to buy more tickets for a dollar each. Plus, the price of admission was worth it for the bands alone – you got some incredible live music after the sampling was over. During the day, they had The Sadies, and at night was Colleen Brown, The Wooden Sky, The Dinner Belles, and an after party in the lounge with The Elwins. Local vendors including NaRoma Pizza, Gorilla Cheese, and Mickey McGuire’s Cheese Shop were on hand to make sure everyone balanced their bevvys with some food. Picking up my official Brews N Bands beer glass (which we got to keep – sure to be a Hamilton keepsake item from my travels in the City) I was ready to get started.

The place was absolutely packed and I took a spin around the Lounge and the main room to check out all of the vendors, thinking about how characteristically indecisive my fellow Tourists and I are, especially when it comes to food and drink options. I didn’t hesitate, choosing one at random to get the ball rolling, or should I say, the beer flowing. My first sample was the King Vienna Lager by Beer Barons, which, according to the official description, has a “medium body, gentle creaminess and slight malt sweetness”. I’m by no means a beer connoisseur, so I’ll leave the descriptions to the professionals. It was a nice, light beverage to sip on as I wandered about to look at the others more closely and decide on my next sample.

Now, I suppose the key to a good beer tasting is pacing. I’m new to the art of the tasting, remember! I didn’t join in until a little bit later, and as the night neared 9 PM, it was a bit of a race against the clock as everyone tried to finish off their beer tickets. Many of the vendors were quite generous with their samples, which didn’t help in speeding up the process! I wanted to get a good range of samples in, and I think I did that. My other samples included a Flying Monkeys Amber Ale, two St-Ambroise brews – their Raspberry Ale and Apricot Wheat Ale, something from Mill St. Brewery, an award-winning Cameron’s Brewing RPA, and I snuck in a Nickel Brook Brewery Green Apple Pilsner just in the nick of time. Phew. CHAMP!

Just when I thought I was done with the beer sampling, later on in the night Brodie handed me a sip of a beer that Dylan Hudecki of local band Cowlick immediately noted, “smells like campfire!” It wasn’t until after we tried it that Brodie revealed it was a “maple bacon donut” beer! It just doesn’t get any more Canadian than that. I don’t know if I could muster a whole bottle; it is a very specific taste, but I could certainly appreciate the explosion of flavour that it was, and how accurate!

That was the Brews, now onto the Bands! Colleen Brown kicked off the show. I hadn’t heard of the Edmonton-based musician, but what a treat it was to be introduced to her delightful folk-pop music. The crowd loved her set, and not just because the beer had fully set in by that point! She was quick to check in with the audience throughout the set and keep everyone engaged. The feisty “Fight! Fight! Fight!” was a highlight for me, as well as the Donna Summer-inspired “Good Girls,” as she put it. Too bad I wasn’t wearing my sequins! Colleen also unexpectedly launched into a bit of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (made famous by Sinead O’Connor) before launching into her own song “7 Hours and 15 days,” which she said was inspired by the song. Colleen and her band filled the venue with their sounds and they were a pleasure to listen to.

When local favourites The Dinner Belles were up next, I made my way right up to the front of the stage, joining my new friend Steph (I was glad to meet another Twitter friend in person!) and her friends. I was really excited to see the Belles, having experienced their live show for the first time last month and knowing how much fun they are. Their energy level is incredible and I love watching how the 7-piece ensemble (which was a 6-piece at this show) interacts with each other onstage. They have amazing musical chemistry, and you can tell how much joy they get from playing together. They are a super group – a true meeting of musical, creative minds. They are a hollerin’, foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’ PARTY! They closed their set with my favourite of theirs, “Til the Dawn,” which I couldn’t help but sing along to; that wasn’t just the beer! Seeing Dinner Belles play again made me even more stoked for our Playlist 1.0, coming up July 28th!! It’ll be a show not to miss! I’m so honoured and humbled we’ve got a band of this calibre on board to celebrate with us and for a great cause. You better all be there – with bells on! (See what I did there?!)

The Dinner Belles

Toronto’s The Wooden Sky were up next, who I hadn’t seen play for a few years and was really glad to see them again. They played such an impressive set and it hit me that they’re another band that I really need to give a proper listen to. But this is what the Tour is all about – expanding our musical horizons and taking in some new sounds. We’ve experienced a lot of authentic folk music throughout our travels and the depth of this music impresses me and moves me every time, The Wooden Sky being no exception. The crowd was full of dedicated fans of the band, listening intently, singing along, and really feeling the music; I was in good company.

After hearing a few audience members behind me shout, “Oh My God!” a few times throughout their set (which I recognized were undoubtedly requests for The Wooden Sky’s song of that title) I was pleased to hear the band bust out the song at the end of their set. The slow drawl and repetition of “Oh my God, it still means a lot to me,” is such a simple lyric but it resonates so much; I could feel its impact as I watched the remainder of their set from the back of the room. I’m sure it’s a sentiment that everyone attached their own memory to in that moment; I know I did.

The Elwins

Then it was off to an after party in the Lounge where The Elwins ended off the night. I had a bit of a “Where have you been all my life?!” moment with this band. Another band I had heard of but hadn’t yet given a proper listen to, I took a quick listen to their music before heading to the event and right away was really looking forward to seeing them play. Even though my energy was waning by that time, I couldn’t help but bob along to their tunes. They finished off their set with the catchy “Fox Tail” (so catchy, that I woke up the next morning with it stuck in my head!) which they taught us the lyrics too, and some corresponding dance moves. Super fun and it was hilarious to see the fairly small group of us who were left in the Lounge shaking our tails like foxes. Troopers, all of us! The Elwins’ playful set was the perfect way to finish off the night. I would love to catch them again when my energy is more up to par! With a successful night had and empty beer glass in hand, I was ready to hit the road, and more specifically, my bed.

The Elwins

I’m thrilled that Casbah’s first Brews N Bands was such an amazing success, and as Brodie tweeted the next day, it made for one of the greatest days in the club’s history. Yet another fantastic Hamilton event that I was happy see in action and that makes this city what it is, encompassing everything we love about it – the sense of community, the music, and, of course, the love of a good brew.

– Kristin

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (, where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing a social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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