Vocation Brewery is a brand new enterprise set up in the wilds of Hebden Bridge, high up in Cragg Vale or, to be precise, at Cragg’s Business Park, New Road.
The new brewery is the vison of John Hickling (who for you brewery spotters out there was the founder and owner of the award-winning Blue Monkey Brewery of Nottingham until recently).
The brewery is set in dramatic moorland with far reaching views across the moors opposite and for John an area he knew well, having originally lived in Heptonstall for several years before getting into brewing. The new venture is in good company being a neighbour of Little Valley Brewery and The Real Cider Company in the business park.
In a recent interview and brewery visit John explained his journey into the brewing world and how he started his career in IT for a major bank but, in his own words, “wanted to create something more than spreadsheets”, bought a home brew kit and was hooked. The brewing of beer was a revelation and now inspired, he soon went on to found the brewery Blue Monkey in 2008 so named after the nickname of the flames that rose out of the chimneys of a local foundry (Stanton iron works)
John sold Blue Monkey about 12 months ago after five years of running the brewery and producing award winning ales, but in his words “mused for something else to do” soon realised that setting up and running successful breweries was in his blood, not only was in his blood but was for him a true vocation in life - hence the name Vocation Brewery.
The brewery is a very modern affair with the plant being installed by Vincent Johnson Brewery installations, a company with over twenty years’ experience, based in Tottington, Bury, (Lancashire). A nationally recognised firm for producing the finest quality brew kits in Britain and Europe. The brew kit will consist of the usual hot and cold liquor tanks (that’s water) the Mash Tun, Copper, fermenting vessels and arrangement of other various technical items.
The copper (which boils the wort) has next to it an ingenious contraption that looks as if is straight out of some nuclear reactor called an `External Calandria’ it contains the heating elements (3) that heats the liquid, (wort) that is pumped through it from the copper, then re-circulates around gradually bringing the copper and its contents to the `Boil’. John said that he believes it to be unusual for micro-breweries to be using this methodology of heating the wort, as external Calandria’s are more common place in much larger breweries. This technical innovation will allow for better brewing with techniques employed like whirlpool technology and aid the cleaning of the copper considerably (no elements getting in the way)
The brewery will be a 15 barrel plant capable of brewing up to 4 x times per week combined with the 4 fermenters could produce 17,220 pints per week (believe me that’s a lot of delicious beer -editor) which will be delivered to outlets in the distinctive black casks emblazoned with the brewery logo.
The malt for brewing comes from Crisp of Norwich, John states that he has used Crisp malts before and their malts have a proven record of producing the quality ales that has become John’s trademark and in John words “why change a winning formula?”
The hops will be mainly American hops varieties (west coast) so expect many of the brews to have a fruit character consisting of a broad range of these fruity flavours from citrus, pine, peachy, pineapple, grapefruit, mango and blueberry all balanced with a clean rounded bitterness to leave you wanting more. (I certainly can’t wait to see them on the pumps of local free houses. –Editor)
As wall as cask John intends to bottle some of the beers which he intends to do in-house, so within the building there is provision for a shop selling the bottles and a bar for those visiting groups to enjoy a hand drawn ale which, I’m sure will prove very popular with CAMRA groups and the general public.
The other important member of the team at Vocation is Tom Chapman who is the Sales Manager. Tom who is local to the area (Hebden Bridge) will be easily recognisable for those who frequented the pubs around Hebden Bridge, in many of which he was behind the bar serving and latterly was Bar Manager at The Hinchliffe Arms, Cragg Vale, a position he held there for three years. Tom has a real passion for cask ale so he certainly knows about its care in the cellar and of course as well as serving was often heard giving a back ground explanation about beers to those wanting to know more about their purchase, with descriptions given on styles, colour and characteristics, ensuring the customers are happy with their beer and hopefully coming back for some more.
As Tom states “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 come from and some thing that makes it stand out from others they may have tried”. “I believe that the range of beers we will be brewing here at Vocation will be distinctive and leave the consumer wanting more, hopefully much more”
The Brewery’s mission statement -
Vocation is a fiercely independent brewery, hell-bent on producing punchy and distinctive beers. Over long days and sleepless nights, we pursue perfection with dogged determination
and never compromise our vision.
This relentless persistence makes our beers bold, brave and exhilarating.