Today we have the pleasure of bringing you an interview with Reece Hugill, owner of one of the newest breweries in the region (if not THE newest), Donzoko Brewing in Hartlepool.
Regular readers will know that we have interviewed many local breweries such as Wylam, Steam Machine and Tyne Bank. If it is your first visit and you would like to read more then you can find all of our local brewery articles here.
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Donzoko Brewing – German inspired beer brewed in Hartlepool
Tell us about the name, where did that come from?
Donzoko Brewing Company- we make modern, German-inspired beer in keg. Mainly just beers I like to drink.
Donzoko is Japanese for rock bottom, I don’t really know why I chose it, it’s mysterious, we sometimes use bottom-fermenting yeast. Its fun to say. I just like the word more than anything. Its also the title of a nice song by Jay Malinowski, and a really bleak Japanese film from the 50’s.
How did you first get into beer brewing?
I’ve been brewing at home all-grain since I was in sixth form, then at university, were I was studying chemistry. Basically wherever i could find some pots and ingredients. Including some sneaky batches at a christian youth centre kitchen in Munich under cover of darkness.
What made you decide to set up your own brewery? Did you do so armed with a network of potential customers or were you starting from scratch?
I was in Munich studying, where beer is pretty much at the heart of the culture. Decided a career in the lab wasn’t for me, so hung up my lab coat, graduated and started on Donzoko. I knew a few brewers, I’d been down to a few great breweries such as Northern Alchemy and Box Social a few times, learning as much as I could from people who know more than I do, but other than that it was pretty much from the ”rock bottom”.
What makes you unique to other breweries?
A lot of breweries, especially in the North East, are smashing it at the moment with IPAs. While German styles such as Kellerbeer and Helles are something you don’t see as often. Lager became a bit of a dirty word for a while, but in the last few years, more and more people are returning to well-made lager styles. I like to brew twists on Bavarian styles like Helles, Maibock, Weißbier etc, and use them as a jumping off point for our own take.
How challenging has it been to get it off the ground/What is the main challenge you have faced?
Starting the brewery has been a real challenge, a lot of physical work transforming an engineering workshop into a brewery, but mainly financially. I started with no savings or big loans from family/banks. Luckily I had great support from Newcastle Uni, local breweries and bars to help get my ideas off the ground, as well as friends/family with great skills.
How would you describe your beers? Are you influenced by a particular style of beer or brewery?
Our brewery motto is ”tradition redefined”, taking old world practices and new school ideas and trying to make decent beer out of them. We use some traditional German techniques, like maintaining a ‘Sauergut’ Lactic acid tank, in which our own house culture turns unfermented beer into lemony lactic acid, which we use in the brew process. Then we re-feed the tank with unfermented beer, completing the cycle. We also spund all our tanks for natural carbonation, this all helps our quest to get soft, drinkable beers packed with flavor.
How do you see the beer scene changing in the North East and the UK as a whole in the coming years?
I’m 23 so can’t comment on how it’s changed too much, but in the last couple of years I think as well as peoples continued love for hoppy beers people are returning to drinking classic styles, both Continental like Saison and Pilsner, but also British, well-kept Cask mild in a rainy pub. Phwoar.
With the amount of breweries just in the North East continuing to rise do you feel we are reaching a saturation point for craft breweries?
I don’t think ”saturation” is going to happen soon, especially if breweries are diversifying into different styles and working to master them, and the outlet for that beer continues to grow, we’ve seen laundrettes become bars and corner shops serving fresh local beer. It’s great for everyone!
Where can consumers currently find your beer? Where do you expect/hope them to find your beer a year from now?
Our beer is dotted around the North East, Hops and cheese in Hartlepool, Free Trade Inn, Town Mouse, Coppers and Box social in Newcastle to name a few, we are working to expand it, so hit us up on twitter if you want some lush lager!
We use a quite different process; brewing off-site, transporting the wort and fermenting it on-site. Organising the logistics etc took a while but we’ve found a way that works for us at the moment, in a year I’d be looking to get a brewhouse of my own. (large cash donations accepted).
Other than your own what is your favourite beer right now?
At the moment i’m drinking Tegerneseer Helles, lush.