In these days that continue to see more and more breweries having to close, it’s refreshing to report that a new one is in the pipeline. HQ Brew, being set up by the Harlequin pub in Nursery Street may brew its first beer by the autumn.
Landlady Liz Aspden, of the self-styled ‘Worst Pub in Sheffield’ told me all about it. Liz has been at the pub now for 12 years, so is well-known to many connoisseurs of good (no matter what she says) pubs in the city. For anyone who doesn’t know Liz, I refer you to one William Shakespeare (who founded a pub in nearby Gibraltar Street) and clearly knew her, saying of her in his blog A Midsummer Night’s Dream ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce’.
For most of her tenure, house beers were supplied by the Brew Company, which briefly became Sky’s Edge, and then Exit 33. A year or so before the Covid pandemic struck, the brewer took a year off due to ill health, and the pandemic put an end to any chance of the brewery recommencing at that time – not much point in brewing, when there are no pubs open to sell the beer to.
A few months ago, Liz thought it might be an idea to open her own brewery using the old Exit 33 kit. Her plan was to create a social enterprise operation, with all profits going to local (30% ring-fenced for South Yorkshire), national and international charities working to support girls and women. To test the water, and find out what level of support there may be, she embarked on a crowdfunding venture which raised over £3000 in 28 days. More funding was also raised directly, and supporters can still contribute at the pub or via email@example.com. Contributors will get the opportunity to vote on what charities are supported and invitations to launch events etc. and various merchandise depending on level of contribution.
Much cleaning and renovation is needed at the brewery, together with the usual rain forest sized amount of paperwork. When all that has been completed brewing can begin. George Barker, who many will remember as long-time barman at the Harlequin, graphic artist par excellence, and owner of the deepest voice in Sheffield, will be the brewer under the tutelage of the former Exit 33 brewer at first. George is currently engaged on the Forth Bridge-like task of repainting the Harlequin’s exterior.
When brewing commences, there will be test brews which will go on sale in the Harlequin, then regular and one-off brews which will also be offered for sale to other pubs, festivals or whomever. Styles will likely be hoppy pales and stouts, with limited use of adjuncts – maybe a ginger beer or vanilla stout, but anyone looking forward to a crème de menthe barrel-aged quince imperial pastry sour will be disappointed!
So let’s all look forward to tasting the first, and subsequent, HQ Brew beer and celebrate the newest addition to Sheffield’s long brewing heritage. For further information, see HQ Brew’s website hqbrew.uk.