Pub Crawl: The Winking Judge, Hamilton

The fact that The Winking Judge is our go-to bar at home in Hamilton is no coincidence. It’s an amazing pub for craft beer lovers, with an impressive craft/microbrew selection.

Winking Judge for Craft Beer - Hoppily Ever After

THE PLACE

The Judge has a classic British pub feel – stained glass, brick, climbing ivy up the exterior walls. Even a fireplace inside (not working, but still – it’s there). It’s on Augusta Street, in Hamilton, part of the string of pubs in tall skinny Victorian houses. The clientele is a mix between the young and hip (and/or hipster), and older downtown regulars, but it’s a comfortable blend.

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The main and second floor are both bar areas,  with wooden seats, beer-branded collectibles galore, threadbare little couches, heavy wooden chairs, and benches tucked here and there. There’s also a front patio alongside the rest of the Augusta pubs, and a back patio with a ceiling of vines.

THE BEER

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Selection from back in November 2015

The beer is the #1 reason to visit the Judge. With 22 constantly changing taps and one cask (for real cask ale, also rotating), there’s a huge selection.

The big chalkboard is your invitation to this world. Beers are often chosen based on the season, so expect lighter and fruitier in the warmer weather, dark and stronger in the winter, and pumpkin and spices in the autumn.

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The majority of the drinks on offer are Ontario craft beer, but they also have decent selections beyond: including Quebec, US, and some European.

THE FOOD

It’s a beer-focused pub first, so don’t expect fireworks with the food. That said, it’s a solid menu of pub grub: you can’t really go wrong with wings (Wednesday is their cheap wing night) and the nachos always taste fresh.

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THE EXTRAS

As befits a proper pub in a Victorian-era home, the Winking Judge is apparently haunted. If you poke around the pub, you’ll see a newspaper article framed on the wall from a 2008 ghost hunt, where the paranormal investigators say they captured a child’s voice on tape saying “I can hear you.” Whether you hear the hauntings may depend on how many glasses of Delirium Tremens you have beforehand – but don’t take our word for it.

Spirits at the Winking Judge, Hamilton - Hoppily Ever After

In terms of less paranormal extras, you can get your name on a plaque on the wall. Just complete what the sign calls an “Irish coffin”:  have 25 different beerswithin 2 months.   Jessica has her name up there, though Josh has yet to get his.

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Pub Crawl: Brux House, Hamilton

Our “pub crawl” series features beer-focused bars, restaurants, clubs, and pubs around Hamilton, throughout Ontario, and beyond.

THE PLACE

Brux (“brucks”) House is pure industrial chic. It’s all brick walls, bare bulbs, steampunk-esque metal, raw wood, and marquee letters. It’s also a temple to craft beer.

That craft beer vibe works its way in everywhere. The logo has a stylized hop in the form of a wolf. The windows are etched with a pint glass and fork silhouette. Under the Brux House sign, it proudly states: “Craft Beer + Kitchen”.

Brux House

Brux House is like a new version of fine dining. Classy service and a finely crafted menu, but with the comfort of a neighbourhood pub.

THE BEER

Brux Flight 1
L to R: Rosée d’Hibiscus – Dieu du Ciel, Spirit of the Woods – Revel Cider, Maredsous Brown – Duvel

Brux has a long, carefully curated list of beers and ciders. With a local brewer as a co-owner, they’ve got the local beer connections downpat. They have a wide assortment of Ontario craft, including a good number of unique brews that may never make it to the LCBO.

Beyond Ontario brews, their list has a good picture of European styles both classic and modern. Belgium seemed to have been particularly well-represented each time we visited.

Beer List
Chalkboard Beer List on July 30, 2015

The beer comes by the pint, but you can also go with our favourite option: a three-beer flight. It’s a good way to try a batch of specialty brews and still make it home in one piece. Plus, it’s always fun trying to match each drink to a course.

Brux Flight 2
L to R: Sour Cherry – Oast House, Rodenbach Grand Cru – Brouwerij Rodenbach, Aphrodisiaque – Dieu du Ciel

THE FOOD

In terms of ingredients, planning, and service, Brux might qualify as “gourmet”. But the European comfort food theme makes it very accessible. German, Belgian, and French seem to be the primary food influences.

Menu options are inspired by local produce, and chalkboard specials pop up. Some of our favourite dishes include mussels, schnitzel, and Belgian waffles. Heck, even their deep fried broccoli was a stand-out dish.

Pretzels

THE EXTRAS

Brux House has two floors and a patio, but it’s all very cozy. A number of locals seem to have caught on to its appeal, so if you’re visiting at a popular dining time, you probably want to make a reservation.

They’re also up for Air Canada’s best new restaurant award. Check out their description, or vote for them here: http://eatandvote.com/en/restaurants/brux-house/