Art, Ale and Community Building with Collective Arts Brewing’s Matt Johnston

Written by Jamie Hunter

March 04, 2021

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After nearly 15 years of various marketing, sales and operational roles in the brewing industry, Matt Johnston felt that he needed a change.

A big one.

Driven by a creative spirit, he struck out on his own to start something “with real soul.” So in 2013, along with his business partner Bob Russell, Matt co-founded Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, Ont.

“When we sat down with a blank piece of paper in front of us, we quickly aligned on the same idea: we wanted to build a purpose-based company that champions creativity,” Matt recently said on the Leading With Nice Interview Series podcast. 

Collective Arts fuses the creativity of craft beverages with the inspired talents of artists from around the world. They feature limited-edition works of art on their cans, and strive to make sure their beer is as diverse and creative as the artists they profile.

In addition to the creative spirit behind the company, a strong sense of community is a core piece of Collective Arts’ foundation. Matt and Bob moved their operations into the former Lake Port Brewery and make it a priority to employ Hamiltonians. 

“We have a number of circles that define our community,” Matt said. “So for us, community is our staff, community is the artists that we work with, community is our drinkers, and then community is the physical geographies that we’re in. Hamilton is where our main brewery is — we have a smaller one in Toronto. But Hamilton is where our main brewery is, where the majority of our staff are. We need to give back that much more in each of our communities.”

Check out the latest episode of the Leading With Nice Interview Series below to hear all this and more, including the thought process of Matt and his colleagues and the impacts these decisions have had on the company.

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