House of Anansi Press’s offices are located on Toronto’s Sterling Avenue in a former industrial district. In recent years, this area has been a haven for the local arts community, initially drawn to affordable rents in decommissioned factory buildings, and the neighbourhood is set to become even more of an arts hub when the Museum of Contemporary Art moves in this fall. Anansi is at the forefront of this new wave of creative businesses. After taking up residence in January 2016, the publisher quickly struck up a partnership with Henderson Brewing, an independent brewery founded just the year before and located in the same building as Anansi’s new offices. Earlier this year, Anansi and Henderson launched the Beers & Books book club. Once a month, Steve Himel, Henderson’s general manager, hosts dozens of readers in the brewery’s event space to discuss books by Anansi authors such as Zoe Whittall, Ian Hamilton, and Tim Falconer, often with the authors in attendance.
To celebrate the launch of Anansi’s 50th-anniversary season in April, Henderson created a custom cucumber blonde, which, in keeping with the publisher’s slogan, is “made to go with sunny days and very good books.” To label the limited-edition bottled version of the beer, Henderson and Anansi chose to feature 30 different book covers from the publisher’s long history, including titles by Northrop Frye, Lynn Crosbie, and Roch Carrier. “We thought putting the Anansi ‘A’ on wouldn’t be that interesting,” says Anansi publisher Sarah MacLachlan. “Steve said, ‘We have the technology to run multiple labels,’ and that’s when we thought, ‘Well, a lot of our 50th-anniversary celebration is centering around our classic reissue paperback series, the A List, and we have some beautiful art on those,’ so that’s what we decided to go with.”