Brew Tours offers the Junction Jitney tour which includes a visit to the Henderson Brewing.
Prior to the Ontario Temperance Act in 1916, which made the possession of alcohol for consumption or sale illegal – but not production – there were 64 breweries in the province. Only a few were in business when Prohibition was repealed in 1927.
Over the next quarter century, Big Beer drank up the little guys. By 1960, 10 companies ran Canada’s 51 breweries, and 25 were owned by either Molson, Labatt, or Canadian Breweries — accounting for 94 percent of all beer sold in Canada.
But in the last 30 years, a craft beer renaissance has grown in response to drinkers’ thirst for variety as well as an interest in supporting locally owned businesses. Labatt, Molson and Sleeman are now foreign owned.
In 1984, Waterloo’s Brickman became the first craft brewery in Ontario. There are now more than 180 craft or micro breweries in Ontario including Sudbury’s Stack. The Sault’s Northern Superior Brewing Co. opened in 2016 with four investors who wanted to keep that city’s brewing heritage alive.
(The Fourth Annual Northern Ontario Microbrew Festival will be held April 20 and 21 at the Caruso Club and the Towne House.)
Craft beer is handcrafted, made in small batches and uses the brew masters’ special recipes. Most use locally-sourced, all-natural pure ingredients with no additives or preservatives.
The number of small craft breweries grows every year. In 2016, the provincial and federal governments invested more than $1.6 million in 20 craft breweries across Ontario.
Craft beer has grown in popularity and has become an economic driver in communities as small at Erieau (Lakeside) and as large as Toronto. There are at least 16 small breweries in the GTA.
The Beer Store and the LCBO carry some craft beers as demand increases but many brands and brews are available only at brewery stores and selected restaurants and pubs. Still, in 2016-2017 the LCBO reported its sales of Ontario craft beer hit $88.5 million, an increase of more than 27.6 percent over the year
Prohibition was not just a dry decade. in some areas of Toronto the Good. The neighbourhood now known as the Junction was dry for almost 100 years. In 1904 the village of West Toronto Junction, an ethnic and working class area, voted to go dry after a series of bar brawls. The ban was lifted in 1998 and the first bar opened in 2001.
Fast forward to 2018. Anchored by the intersections of Dundas St. W. and Keele St., The New York Times calls The Junction “hip” with “stylish” neighbourhoods. The Junction has become gentrified and home to young urbane families and trendy restaurants and bars. It is also a hot spot for craft breweries, many located in repurposed industrial buildings.
There are so many craft breweries in this area you can take a guided tour of them. Brew Tours offers the Junction Jitney tour which includes a visit to the Henderson Brewing Co., named after Toronto’s first brewery that was established by Robert Henderson in 1805.
Henderson is located at 1128 Sterling Rd., near the House of Anansi Publishing offices and shop, the Drake Commissary, and future home of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Henderson brews include Food Truck Lager as well as Henderson’s Best Ale and Union Pearson IPA.
Other stops on the tour include Halo Brewery at 247 Wallace St., and Rainhard Brewery at 100 Symes Rd.
Visit the Brew Tours website (brewtours.ca) for information about public and private tours. Tours include transportation and a guide, lunch at a brew pub, tastings at three breweries. The cost is $108.
Brew Tours also offers tasting trips in Barrie and Muskoka.