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Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Wings Beneath My Wind

I've been feeling really nostalgic lately so when The Fella suggested going out to dinner earlier this week my choice of venues came from sentimental state of mind - The Gown & Gavel

The Gown & Gavel is a Hamilton institution. It was one of the first British pubs in Hamilton and has been the jewel in the former glorious crown that was Hess Village for close to three decades. 

I began frequenting "The Gown" in the late 80's and was in fact underage for the first two years of my patronage.  The regulars were a real motley crew ranging from students, yuppies, punk kids like myself and crusty old British blokes who grumbled about our mohawks and Doc Martens.  It was during these years at The Gown where I developed my love for beer.  In my teens I had tried Labatt's 50 and Budweiser at parties and decided (prematurely) that beer wasn't for me.  However, The Gown taught me what good beer was all about.  I began drinking pints of lager & lime, which was only a gateway drink that eventually led me to the good stuff.    I was encouraged to try Guinness by my friend Imants and I was immediately hooked.  My mind expanded and I began to try all of their lovely elixirs on tap -- Double Diamond, Harp, Newcastle, etc.  

The Gown became one of the premiere live music venues in the late 80's and early 90's featuring popular local bands such as The Dik Van Dykes, The Wet Spots and King Apparatus on the second floor.  There was also the record lounge, Moondogs, on the third floor that was run by Tom Wilson pre-Junk House fame.  Albums decorated the walls and they would spin an eclectic mix of vinyl.  I was asked to leave one evening for singing loudly along with the record (see beer lover explanation above).

It's not The Gown anymore.   The green velvet booths and tapestry wall paper are gone.   So is the entire third floor.  The Gown & Gavel  was completed renovated a few years back and it is now a sleek, modern space.  The second & third floor have been combined to make one space with high vaulted ceilings.  The great selection of British beers on tap has been ironically replaced by corporate beers such as Labatt's.  They have also bought the building next door and the patio space is now massive.  Don't get me wrong-it's a beautiful space, but it's simply not the same.  Neither is Hess Village for that matter.  It is no longer a cool, alternative pub area.  It is now a club area that mimics a mini version of Richmond Street in Toronto.  The dance music pounds, the police patrol for fights, the median age is of the patrons is 21 and it is now referred to as "Mess Village".  I am now the crusty old Brit who grumbles about this new generation.

One thing has the remained the same.  The Gown & Gavel still makes some of the best wings in the Hammer.  It was great to go back and have a few pints, eat some great wings and swap Gown stories with The Fella from our Hess Village glory days.  Those wings lifted my spirits, hence the reverse title of the Bette Midler song...well that and the wings were really the cause beneath the wind I had later that night...

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