It all began in 1975, with two teenage brothers trying to cook up a Geordie beer kit on the stove before Dad got home to catch them at it. Fortunately as it turned out, they hadn’t allowed themselves enough time before he arrived, catching them in flagrante delicto. “What are you two up to then”? We had no choice but to confess. “Making beer eh?… hmm, Dad considered his response to the crime he’d seen in the process of being committed. “Well if it turns out any good, I might consider financing the brewery.” A judgment of wisdom we thought, and indeed the first results were quite promising, so funding was forthcoming for our own little nano brewery.
From the beginning we felt sure that there had to be more to brewing beer than making up a kit, so we found a book on the subject, which is what you had to do in those days before the internet, if you wanted to find out about anything. Ken Shales, in ‘Advanced home brewing, was our first guide. Soon we were making beers to our own recipes with a partial mash method, part grain, part malt extract. Whether this was because we lacked confidence the mash would work, or because the book told us to do so, I don’t remember. I do remember though, that these beers were really quite wonderful. Dad was well pleased with his investment and he had no objection to us sharing most of the proceeds with our friends in regular beer evenings we started to host.
In our minds what we were doing took on far greater grandeur than a couple of young lads making home brew in the kitchen. Soon we were inventing a brand identity for the imagined brewery we were running. It was my brother Colin who came up with the name. Hurglitz was the name of one of the heroes in a Tolkienesque novel he was writing. I think he got as far as chapter two, but naming our home brewery ‘Hurglitz Ales’ meant his character would not be forgotten, at least not by us. What a medieval world we inhabited in our heads in those days! Myself in particular I think. The world of Hurglitz was a world of sword wielding beer swilling heroes, full of demons and witches. This world I illustrated on our beer labels. After all a real brewery wouldn’t just bung the stuff in un-labelled bottles, we had to present it properly. Long before the computer and the inkjet printer I turned the lino cut for a reproducible medium. As the lino cut very much resembles a medieval woodcut, this was entirely suitable for the first incarnation of Hurglitz Ales.
Teenagers leave home, go to college, and do other things with their lives, so it was inevitable the brewery would cease production for a time. Back in the 1990’s however, my brother and I shared a flat together in North West London and we began brewing again. We dropped the ‘Ales’ from the name, swayed by the fashion of the time, and became simply Hurglitz. The first beer we made was a bitter and we called it ‘Phoenix’.
Last year I revived the brewery once again. Knowing that I was going to be receiving the mantel of Cheers from Richard I thought I had better get brewing again! The last 12 or so years have seen me concentrating on making wine from grapes imported from Italy, but the world of ‘Vino di Paolo’ is a different story for another time.
The first beer the new Hurglitz brewery made was a strong bitter. This time I called it ‘Renaissance Bitter’. It was roughly based on a Graham Wheeler recipe for Hook Norton’s Old Hooky, but without the black malt, making it a lighter beer. I will add the recipe to this blog when I can find my notes! (That’s a fine example for you!) The results were very pleasing, a much smoother more mellow beer than some of the more in your face stuff we’d made in the past. I think Hurglitz is coming to its maturity, well at least, with Hurglitz Renaissance Bitter it’s finally out of the Middle Ages!
Any queries phone Paul on 020 8644 0934