By Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy of Niki Hurren
Years ago Witch’s Rock Surf Camp owner Joe Walsh realized there was no craft brewed pale ale in town. As a result, he opened Volcano Brewing Company, and put Englishman Niki Hurren in charge of the process.
This suited Hurren perfectly as he was already living here, and with a background in construction, brewing beer just seemed like a logical progression. Volcano Brewing Company has moved to a larger facility where it continues to brew Witch’s Rock Pale Ale, Volcano IPA Indian pale ale, and his favorite, Witch’s Rock Gato Malo (brown ale).
Needless to say, with that, his surfing and his family, we were lucky to get to talk with him.
THETamarindo News: Where are you from?
Niki Hurren: I am from the east coast in the county of Suffolk, England a small town called Halesworth near the coast of the North Sea. I was lucky enough to come from a loving and supportive family with an older sister, who is very happy to visit us during the English winter months. Growing up was a classic English childhood playing football, cricket, rugby, but I discovered my love of the ocean by staying at my friend’s family’s beach hut every summer. My home county is very rural so I spent a lot of time playing outdoors and trying to get in to trouble. I was never happy in a class room and always loved to learn in more practical situations. Mistakes happen but they can always get sorted or fixed. I started to ski and snowboard in high school, then a natural progression into surfing went hand in hand with the desire to travel.
TTN: Why Costa Rica?
NH: My first trip was in 2004. I saw the movie “Endless Summer 2,” and thought the country looked fun and somewhere I wanted to experience. The waves looked amazing and I wanted to challenge myself with a new language and travelling alone for the first time. I was not disappointed so I stayed for 18 months from an original 3-month ticket. The culture and warmness of the people just blew me away and I am so lucky to feel that Costa Rica is mine and my family’s home.
TTN: How did you start brewing for the Volcano Brewing Company?
NH:I have worked for Witch’s Rock for many years in different areas and my background is construction, so I have done a lot of projects and this was just a new project that needed to be managed. Although I did not realize that I would be the actual one brewing the beer, it was just supposed to be until we got someone in to do the job permanently. If you want to make it down here, you have got to be able to adjust and wear many hats and be versatile. I had no experience before; I had to learn on the job, which is how I love to learn. Any brewer that would come through got a barrage of questions from me to get as much info as possible, which was always done over a couple of beers, so better than the classroom. I have always appreciated craft beer and this project turned into a passion and gratefully a new career path. It was a lot of reading and research.
TTN: Why is surfing a big component of your life?
NH: I started surfing when I was 20 on a coast that does not get a great deal of good swell, so it forced me and my friends to start travelling to other beaches then to other countries which makes you broaden your horizons and see all that is out there. Surfing is so simple and so frustrating at the same time, the thing I love about it is that you can go play as an adult in the ocean, it keeps you young and humble. Surfing is the greatest feeling. It gave me my family as well. I was working at Witch’s Rock and I met my wife, Andrina, at table #11 in the restaurant.
She was working as a masseuse and I was a surf instructor. A connection was made, then 14 years and 2 children later we are still living and smiling in the sun.
My wife is as passionate about surfing as I am so we make sure that we all get our water time. Having a family is the greatest gift, being lucky enough to find someone to walk through this life with that will put up with your BS and then be blessed with healthy children, that test you, make you laugh, despair and question everything all before breakfast. I am proud of the parents that we have become and the children we have raised. We are multi-cultural family: Me from the UK; my wife, Argentina; Olivia born in Costa Rica; and Ozzy born in the UK but raised here.
TTN: Tell me about the new brewery.
NH: The brewery has moved from the beach, to the north end of Tamarindo, just 100 meters north of the Tamarindo Gym. We have a larger industrial space which fits perfectly for our growing needs. We are brewing our very first test batches with the new system and just ironing out all the problems that arise in any project and we just kegged or first batch of IPA that we are very happy with. Our capacity has gone from 2,400 liters, to 6,400 liters. We open in the first weeks of January at full production and to the public.
TTN: Future plans?
NH: For the brewery our main plan is to create a space for the community to come enjoy it, try new beers brewed right here, take advantage of an economic growler, crowler program, festivals and events in the park atmosphere. Personally, I plan to just keep enjoying life, appreciate every day with the family, brew some crazy beers and get more barrels.