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