Microbrewers and Micropubs, George Orwell, and the 21st Century

The Brain on James Street North is an interesting place, a tightly packed bar with no televisions, poor lighting, a wide selection of craft brews, great coffee, and always full of people.

The Baltimore House on King William is similar, with better lighting. The bars I used to enjoy going to were similar – good brews, few distractions, and regulars who conversed.

The kind of pub which George Orwell would approved of based upon his 1943 writings on what makes a good pub.

The Pub and Hamilton’s 21st Century Politics

We’ve seen instances of political organization and movements emerging from the ‘James Street crowd’ as out-of-town media writers and disconnected politicians like to minimize it. The stadium debate, the downtown casino debate, the election of Matthew Green in Ward 3, and even ward boundary reform are being driven by emerging new community movements.

Each of them are a collective of individuals with none of the traditional political connections of the past, they are not of the same age or ethnic demographics, do not share employment trades or types, and are crossing class boundaries.

Step into The Brain on a Friday night at 9pm and you’ll see this. While, as an outsider, you are likely to notice the number of people in their 20s, take a second and look at the people in their 50s or the retirees. It’s much the same on Trivia Night at the Baltimore House.

Small coffee shops are popping up across the City, and as they establish, they move into getting a liquor license to serve microbrews and be open later into the evening.

The micropub / coffee shop is slowing filling the community void left by the late 1980s to late 1990s shuttering of union and veterans halls across the City. In the mid-90s, the sit down donut shop started to disappear in favour of the more profitable drive-thru and quicker turnover of less comfortable standardized seating. Hamilton’s great days of ambition were driven by the political debates and organization that happened in those halls and coffee shops.

Too many people are looking for a single point or change in Hamilton’s politics to bring back the vibrant exchange of ideas that Hamilton’s politics was known for prior to the 1990s. It’s not going to be a quick change, but the foundations are being built at coffee shops, small pubs, and budding neighbourhood associations which are popping up across the entire amalgamated city.