Colourful cans with bold designs aren't just a clever marketing ploy at Collective Arts — behind every eye-catching label is an up-and-coming artist. The brewery and spirit producer doubles as a creative hub for emerging artists and musicians.
"I started Collective Arts together with Bob Russell, a friend that I've worked with for a number of years," says Matt Johnston, the brewery's co-founder and CEO.
"We talked about starting our own brewery, and we spent some time imagining what would get us up every day and get us excited. We wrote a sentence, which is: 'Fusing the creativity of craft brewing with the inspired talents of emerging artists and musicians from around the world.' And that really became our ethos."
Since its inception seven years ago, Collective Arts has featured and paid more than 1,500 artists. Commissioned artwork weaves its way through both the original Hamilton brewery and the new Toronto location, both on the inside, and outside in the form of giant murals. Musicians also have a chance to soak up the spotlight through collaborations and being featured online and in Collective Arts' Spotify playlists.
"It's all about inspired creativity. When you can be focused on creativity inside the can or the bottle, and how that rolls to the outside to then profile artists, that's really exciting for us because we're perpetually changing and always evolving," says Johnston.
Since its inception seven years ago, Collective Arts has featured more than 1,500 artists
"We pushed the boundaries and have evolved from being a craft brewer to making a wide range of products, which is similar to these artists in that what we make inspires us. For us, it's all about creativity and the ingredients."
With the opening of the Toronto location on Dundas just west of Bathurst, the Collective Arts team now has even more opportunities to harness their creativity. "That's our innovation brewery, where we're just going to play," enthuses Johnston. A smaller brewing system allows them to create more interesting small-batch brews that will be available for a limited run.
"I'm excited about the fact that we get to play," says Johnston. "Our company is rooted in creativity, and that's something we all love — that we can constantly try out these different nuanced beers."
Pull up a seat in the taproom or on their covered, heated patio to try their latest beers, paired with sharing plates and small bites.
Collective Arts: The packaging
"It's getting harder for artists to be seen or heard. We have a medium in the form of our packaging and our content, which can tell their story. Rather than putting a boring label on the package every time, why not feature different artists?"
Collective Arts: Gin and gin sodas in a can
"We love that gin is all about the botanicals, and that it can be made quickly, similar to craft beer. Most of our gins have 12–18 botanicals in them. There are so many different layers. And we're about to release some small batch gins, too."
Collective Arts: Cider
"We've always done cider. What we love most about it is collaborating with local growers (apple growers, cherry producers), and really, it's 100 per cent fruit and botanicals. It's just a lot of fun to produce all-local products."