The Casbah 306 King Street West
By Steph Dubik
My taste buds didn’t know what they were in for. Since I made the same mistake as the first year I attended Brews N Bands, I showed up thinking I had plenty of time to sample all of the different beers when in actuality I only had half an hour. But that didn’t stop me from having a great time and making sure I tried everything I wanted to try! I went with my sister and some friends and seeing that we needed to get down to business as soon as we got there, we each headed in separate directions so we could cover the most ground and let each other know what we liked.
Each of the independent breweries had all been in operation for 3 years or less. That being the case, anyone I talked to was very enthusiastic and happy to tell me about their craft, even offering a little sample if I was unsure of what to use my ticket on. I especially appreciated a quick rundown of what to expect flavour wise because I’m not a huge fan of excessively bitter/hoppy beer and I’d hate for anything to go to waste.
The first beer I tried was Spearhead Brewing Company’s Moroccan Brown Ale. I was a bit hesitant when I was told it had an IBU of 35 (yes, I’m a baby when it comes to bitterness) but was reassured it wouldn’t taste bitter because of the fact that it’s made with dates, figs, raisins, and cinnamon. It was delicious and I was even tempted to have a second sample, but time being of the essence, I downed the first one to make way for more.
I was really excited to see Collective Arts Brewing because I’ve been hearing so much about this new brewery lately. Bands I love like July Talk, Dusted and Grey Kingdom have collaborated with the company to create great art to go along with equally great beer. The labels on the bottles are interactive; you can scan the special codes with your phone and listen to a tune or watch a video while you finish your drink! I can’t remember which one I tried, but it was good! According to the Collective Arts Brewing website, a Hamilton brewing location is set to open in the Fall of this year in partnership with Nickel Brook Brewing at the historical Lakeport facility. The site will even include a space for live music! Exciting news for both of those brewing companies and for Hamilton, our beloved town and emerging hot spot for great art, music, food, and culture! Speaking of Nickel Brook, I tried their Green Apple Pilsner and loved it. It wasn’t too sweet or sour at all, which I was happy about.
After a few samples it was starting to get harder to keep track of everything, especially because I only gave myself a couple of minutes to drink each one. Nonetheless two more great beers stood out among the rest. First, The Collingwood Brewery’s Downhill Pale Ale. The fact that it was a Collingwood company is what drew me to their booth at first because it’s a place I’ve visited in the summer with my family for years. Again, not overly bitter, as they told me before I sampled it. It was light and refreshing, just what anyone wants to drink while in cottage country! Second, Side Launch Brewing Company’s Wheat Beer. Also from Collingwood, Side Launch was formerly known as Denison’s Brewing Co. Their Wheat Beer was an old favourite that they decided to keep making after the rebranding, and it’s a good thing! I really love wheat beers and Side Launch makes a great one. I liked it so much I went back for seconds. I used two tickets for a full glass and we headed down to the Strathcona for some tasty treats!
The former Casbah Lounge space, now The Strathcona, was unrecognizable when I walked inside. Of course I knew what the lounge used to look like but it was almost impossible to remember because of how gorgeous the newly renovated space looked. Plus it was much bigger than I imagined it would be! The decor has a vintage inspired look and incorporates different styled tables (one table is even made of an old door!) and chairs. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor before I could form a sentence to describe was I was seeing. It’s amazing [and now officially open for business!]. Brodie even came up to me and asked if I approve, seeing as how I had quite a soft spot for the Lounge — 100%! As much as I loved that Lounge, as he knew, I was extremely impressed with the transformation. I’m pumped for a new routine of grabbing some great food at the cool new Strathcona before catching a show upstairs. (Which is going to be very often, we all know that.)
So my friends and I found a seat and proceeded to indulge in cheese, pie, and butter tarts. The Strathcona was offering assorted plates; cheese, meat or vegan. I opted for the cheese plate and it was so tasty! I have no idea what types of cheeses were on said plate, seeing as how I had just managed to drink numerous beer samples in under 25 minutes, but I enjoyed the selection especially because there were also some figs and date bars to accompany the cheeses. Next, there was pie. If Hattie’s Pies continue to be featured at Brews N Bands, I am making it my personal tradition to end each one on a pie note. (See what I did there?) Last year’s Brews N Bands ended with a shared slice and it was one of the best decisions of the night. This year I wasn’t leaving without a slice of heaven. The butter tarts were out of this world and the Salted Honey Pie looked so good, I couldn’t even wait to take a picture before digging in. It tasted almost like baklava, which is one of my favourite desserts, so that pie was made for me to eat.
After we finished our beers (and pies) we headed back upstairs. I feel terrible for saying this but sadly we didn’t stay for the musical guests because I had to split myself in two that night. We had a great time but needed to get going if we were going to make it to I Heart Hamilton’s Playlist 3.0!
I look forward to Brews N Bands each year and I haven’t missed one yet! It’s always a great time and I’m excited to see it expand and incorporate new breweries and bands in the coming years. It must take a lot of planning to have an event like that run so smoothly every year, so great job to all involved in making it happen!