A guide to beers and bands in the Limestone City

By Nick Pearce

Kingston can’t always decide if it’s a city for beers or bands—truth is, it’s both.

The street signs tick off pubs and bars, crammed with regional beers, and play host to the musical acts rocking the city’s weekends. For beer connoisseurs doubling as music fans, there’s no better town for a pub crawl and a sampling of the city’s music offerings. Here’s a list of signature local drinks to kick off your musical journey and pub crawl in the Limestone City.

Skeleton Park Amber at the Merchant Tap House


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Merchant Tap House (@merchanttaphouse) on

By the waterfront, there’s the Merchant Tap House, a classic lamplight pub with dark, lacquered floors. The house stage in the corner was a launching pad for luminaries like The Glorious Sons, who cut their teeth honing their timeless sound in the pub.

It’s best to start the night right with a Skeleton Park Amber. The titular brewing company’s signature beer, a pint of Skeleton Park is hoppy, caramel chaser and a perfect introduction to bar-hopping live stages in the city.

MacKinnon Brothers Crosscut at The Toucan


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Toucan Kingston (@toucankingston) on

A weathered staple, The Toucan’s famous for two things: pints of Guinness and the stage near the back. The latter is where student bands aim when they want to reach the city’s long-term residents; the former is what brings the crowd, in addition to seeing fresh musical talent, of course. However, Kingston’s breweries stack-up against any import.

For example, local brewer MacKinnon Brothers Crosscut is darker than most lagers, slipping past dad-beer status to reveal a more refined taste than you initially bargained for. What better way to celebrate a stalwart stage that continues to serve musical surprises while keeping a loyal base of music fans. It’s a community, music, and a brewery’s best all in a single bar.

Waupoos Cider at Musiikki Café


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by MusiikkiOpenMic (@musiikki.open.mic) on

Musiikki Café, meanwhile, is less bar, more experience. There are old books on the shelf, a stage buried in its storefront window, and a face-to-face intimacy that means a change of pace. Its open mic nights are famous and host next to every genre, from folk to jazz. It’s a cultural nerve centre. And, whether it’s a professional or an amateur on stage, it can be a spell-binding experience.

At the bar, it’s a chance to sample Waupoos Cider from the County Cider Company, which is a short drive south of the city in Prince Edward County. It’s crisp, light, refreshing and matches the energy on stage.

Sam Roberts Band Ale at The Mansion


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Spearhead Brewing Company (@spearheadbeer)

The Mansion is a crossroads for a city that blends together styles and genres to create something unique to itself.

Students mill around with long-term residents; emerging artists open for touring acts on their from Montreal to Toronto and multiple rooms cater to a town that fell in love with its bands. Close-off your night catching a headliner at this landmark establishment, and then grab a Kingstonian tribute to a Canadian musical icon.

Celebrate future Juno winners taking the stage with a collaboration between Sam Roberts Band and Kingston’s Spearhead Breweries. The Sam Roberts Band Ale is a combination of American and British ales and a much-needed, hop-filled conclusion to any musical tour of the city.

There’s nothing more complementary to watching a local band on stage than a pint from a local brewery.

Get the inside scoop on Kingston’s live music scene and check out the latest music festivals and events on our music site.