There’s a fantastic pile of rubble at the old Lakeport Brewery on Burlington Street West at Ferguson Avenue.

I’ve parked this week’s test drive, a Range Rover with the mini mountain of concrete in the background. If not for a protective chain link fence, the Ranger Rover SUV could be charging up the incline.  The people at Land Rover, maker of the Ranger Rover love to demonstrate the off-roading capabilities of their lineup. In January they took a bunch of auto journalists to Iceland on a thrill seeking trip and make them drive through icy rivers and over hostile freeze-dried terrain. Everybody came back safe.

I didn’t make the trip, preferring to discover the wild and the fierce in Hamilton instead.  Ranger Rovers are sublime vehicles and they should be for the price. My test drive is a V6 with 340 horsepower and suspension settings for any type of geography that might test you. Gravel, mud, snow, slop, water, conditions otherwise called winter in Hamilton, are dealt with at the press of a button. Ranger Rovers are fast, quiet, grippy, and luxurious and seem to levitate over the worst roads thanks to their magical air suspension.  The V6 starts at a steep $100,900, but as the company says, “it’s the only car you’ll ever need.”

So, this beautiful vehicle with its tough underpinnings looks at home amid the rubble that’s soon to be transformed into something useful.

“We’re grinding that up to make the parking lot,” John Romano is saying as he gives me a whirlwind tour of what will soon become the Arts & Science Brewery. Romano is the co-founder of Nickel Brook Brewing Company, he’s invited some employees down to see progress on the building, and I’m tagging along.

Romano walks and talks like he’s supercharged, just like the Range Rover. Inside the dusty shell of the old Lakeport building, Romano is racing by all the brewing equipment that has arrived from Nova Scotia. He bought the equipment from Sleemans when they decided to close down their operation in Dartmouth. “ If I had to buy all this new, I couldn’t have pulled this off,” he says as he heads for another part of the plant.

“Here we’ll put in five garage doors that will open to the outdoor patio,” Romano says sweeping his hand toward a wall of concrete block.

There are big plans here, and Romano admits it’s giving him some sleepless nights. Nickel Brook with partner Collective Arts Brewing is putting 5 million into the brewery he says, and the Hamilton Port Authority owners of the building invested 3.6 million into infrastructure improvements.

John Romano of Nickel Brook Brewing gives a tour of the new Arts & Science brewery at the old Lakeport brewery site. Photo by Kathy Renwald

John Romano of Nickel Brook Brewing gives a tour of the new Arts & Science brewery at the old Lakeport brewery site. Photo by Kathy Renwald

“We’re putting the patio on the west side of the building, so it faces Eastwood Park,” Romano says, “There’s going to be a stage, live music, and we hope to have Food Truck Fridays here too, but we don’t want to get into the food business, we’ve had such good support from Hamilton restaurants.”

In the winter Romano says they plan to have an indoor market, “We’ll have tables, vendors can sell food, bread and cheese, they’ll be space for artists too.”

The exterior of the building which is clad in metal siding the colour of ballpark mustard, will be switched to a dark charcoal. After recladding, work on the parking lot and patio will start

“Every fall I take a beer road trip in the States,” Romano is saying as we finish the tour, “This is how it’s done there, the beer, the music, art, some food, it’s a total package around craft beer.” A beer road trip, now that would be fun in the Range Rover.

Arts & Science Brewing hope to be making beer by the spring.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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