Vocation Brewery first caught my attention in Calan’s Micropub in Hebden Bridge in the May last year. My first introduction to their beer was a very traditional pale ale called Bread and Butter. I was told they were a new local brewery and assumed like most breweries in this region, that their others beers would be traditional kinds too and as the Summer heat kicked in, I was seeking out craft beer at a colder temperature.
In August, with my friends Jake & Sophie, I promoted the Tor Ist Das! festival and we wanted a local brewery to supply our beer. I was quite surprised when Jake told me he had done the deal with Vocation Brewery as he was very much the craft drinkerer. I was even more surprised when he told me all the beers we were getting were going to be hoppy IPAs. I’d clearly gotten the wrong idea about Vocation.
The big weekend arrived and so did the beers. We had a ton of cans of Heart & Soul IPA (4.4%), quite a few cans of Life & Death IPA (6.5%) and a small amount of bottles of Divide & Conquer black IPA (6.5%). Nothing there for the traditionalists but you could definitely have said the same thing about our music line-up. Throughout the daytime for each day, I stuck to the Heart & Soul. It is just as hoppy tasting as many craft ales twice its strength and wonderfully refreshing. I’m normally the kind of guy who changes beer with every pint but a day on the Heart & Soul felt just great.
As it got darker, I switched to the Life & Death IPA, the big brother of Heart & Soul. While I had no complaints at all about Heart & Soul, I could feel things ramping up with this one. The hops feel a bit spicier and the alcohol content makes it tingle more, although it is riskily suppable.
Finally, for the headliner, I tried a Divide & Conquer. If ever there was a beer to drink while operating the smoke machine for a black metal legend, this was it. It feels like quite a luxury drink and magnificently hoppy. Sadly, there were none left for day 2 but the same technique of starting on Heart & Soul then switching to the Life & Death at night worked beautifully and everyone else seemed to do the same. We got a lot of compliments both from our punters and from the bands about the Vocation beers, which were new to nearly all of them.
Ever since that weekend, I’ve felt a deep affection for Vocation and though I rarely revisit beers (always seeking new thrills), I do keep on coming back to these ones again and again. It is partly emotional memory and partly how good they are. I’ve also enjoyed their Pride and Joy American pale ale, the majestic Naughty & Nice chocolate stout and even a few of their ongoing Chop & Change series which sees them experimenting with different styles for cask.
It came as no surprise to me when I learned that Vocation was set up by an experienced brewer. It’s the new brainchild of John Hickling who founded the Blue Monkey Brewery in Nottingham but Vocation is on a whole higher level than his previous work. In fact, having indulged their brewings on many occasions now, I feel it is entirely justified to say that Vocation are the most important brewery to open in the North since Magic Rock.