Henderson Brewing: The mainstream-meets-craft beer you need to try

We find out the story behind The Junction's Henderson Brewing, and their coveted, and at times contentious, Ides Series of beer.

It’s allowed us to tell some really amazing stories — and in some cases, it’s gotten us into a little bit of trouble,” says Steve Himel, co-founder of Henderson Brewing, about the brewery’s popular Ides Series of beer.

Himel confesses that Stuart Woody Wood of the Bay City Rollers was less than enamoured with their Rollers February beer release, which Henderson had based on a free concert at Nathan Phillips Square that the Scottish pop rock band played 45 years ago.

“We brewed a Scottish ale, which was very fitting — and didn’t I receive a cease and desist in my inbox this morning?” laughs Himel.

Though Henderson Brewing’s Ides Series are made in small quantities and intended to be one-offs, they are immensely popular, and in some cases, award-winning. “Next month will be our 60th round of the Ides Series. They really inspire us to create interesting beers.”

Henderson Brewing opened up on Sterling Avenue five years ago and has since become part of an unlikely drinking enclave populated with a hodgepodge of converted garages and tiny huts pulling pints.

“The Junction’s story is so interesting, because really until 2001, it was dry. That really shaped the community here,” says Himel.

Burdock and Bandit might be creating cutting-edge microbrews down the road, but Himel says that Henderson’s focus has always been on simpler beer that takes the best of mainstream and craft.

Approachability is the name of the game at this (in normal times) lively, often dog-filled space where it’s not uncommon for strangers to strike up a conversation at one of their long benches over a flagship pint or
two of Henderson’s Best.

“My kids did gymnastics in this very space,” says Himel. “There are just a lot of wonderful underground myths happening in this neighbourhood.” Myths that have been ripe for inspiring their storied beer collections, as well as a community that’s seen everyone from a group of new moms to a circus school grace their taproom.

Himel sums it up: “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Beer is like a welcome mat — when somebody invites you to share a beer, there’s generally no pretense to that. But there’s also a level of intimacy that says, ‘Now you’re a friend.’”

Henderson Brewing: The Ides Series

The Ides Series brings some of the city’s most interesting stories to life, from a stout commemorating the brave walk taken by Laura Secord to a pale ale made with unused bread and proceeds going to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Henderson Brewing: Pop-up food vendors

It may not have a permanent kitchen, but Henderson does have a roster of pop-ups from some of the city’s best eats. From Kungfudawg’s sausages to bivalves from Island Oysters, there’s always a vendor to line your stomach.

Henderson Brewing: Bottle shop

“Our bottleshop has been our lifeblood through COVID. It used to be that if somebody finished work and wanted a beer, they would come into our tap room. Now those people come to the shop, buy a beer and drink it on the way home.”