Vocation Brewery, Life and Death
John Hickling had already left one career in IT behind him when he and his uncle founded Nottingham-based Blue Monkey Brewery in 2008. So when he sold his stake in that brewery five years later, he was at a loss for what to do next.
Anyone who has lived in Yorkshire will know the feeling of longing and nostalgia once in exile from God’s Country. So it was that John returned to his hometown of Heptonstall and whatever plans or ideas he might have had it soon became clear that these needed to involve beer. It was his, err, vocation.
Aptly named then, Vocation Brewery gave John the opportunity to start from scratch and apply all the accumulated knowledge he’d gained at Blue Monkey into something and somewhere new.
Vocation Brewery was launched in Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge in early 2015. Amidst the post industrial mill towns, valleys and moorland you might think this would be a very traditional place... and the beer there equally so. But this part of Calderdale is as well known for its artistic heritage as it is for its ‘satanic mills’.
In 2005 nearby Hebden Bridge was declared the 4th quirkiest place in the world by a British Airways inflight magazine. Quoted as "modern and stylish in an unconventional and stylish way" it has a quirkiness that seems to show little sign of abating with the profusion of fiercely independent local businesses and a cast of local, somewhat oddball, celebrities.
Inspired by this independence the beers by Vocation have a very modern outlook. Tom Chapman, sales manager at Vocation, Hebden Bridge resident and former manager at the The Hinchliffe Arms in Cragg Vale has some musings on this;
“Drinkers are wanting to know a lot more about their beer, not just that it tastes good but about the depth of flavours, style and where it’s come from. They want something that makes it stand out from others they may have tried.”
Music to our ears. This week’s beer, Life & Death, really showcases their approach. Hazy, unpasteurised, unfiltered and in a can. It’s a beer where a lot of West Coast USA hops have found their way to West Yorkshire, giving us this pokey US style IPA. It’s a beer that has rapidly turned out to be their most popular and best reviewed beer in can and keg.
I asked Tom where he would drink this beer; “If I could drink this beer at any time with anyone, it would be outside the brewery, as the sun is setting at 5pm on a Friday teatime with the other lads that work here - as we do on a regular basis”.
That sounds like someone who has found their vocation.