Abstract The hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) was studied on bare brass (B), nickel coated brass (B/Ni), nickel–zinc alloy coated brass (B/NiZn, leached Zn), nickel (under layer)/nickel–zinc alloy coated (top layer) brass electrodes (B/Ni/NiZn, leached Zn) in 1 M NaOH solution using electrolysis, cathodic polarization and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) techniques. Long term tests were performed in order to evaluate the electrocatalytic activity and corrosion performance of the prepared electrodes with operation time. The results showed that leached electrodes, especially B/Ni/NiZn electrode, have a smaller overpotential than the others and a good electrocatalytic activity for the HER. Its electrocatalytic activity is also stable over electrolysis time. Contrary to the HER performance, B/NiZn cannot provide an adequate corrosion protection. However, when a thin Ni layer was coated under the NiZn alloy coating (B/Ni/NiZn), a greater electrocatalytic stability and corrosion protection was obtained.