It’s the brewery’s sixth birthday today, so I want to tell you a little story about how this all started.  How I went from homebrewing in my kitchen to building a brewery that turns over £12m a year with a team of 50+ people. 

These days the success of the brewery is all about the amazing team that works here.  But at first it was just me, in a kitchen, with some plastic buckets.


13 years ago, I worked in IT for a bank.  To be brutally honest, I wasn’t very good at it.  I never really cared about what I was doing, so I did just enough work to not get sacked.  I was sent on a cheesy motivational course – I guess they hoped it would turn me into a model employee.   I was cynical, but the course wasn’t optional, so I plastered on a fake smile and went.

The course taught us how to get passionate, how to make bold decisions, how to be our best selves.  Taking all this on board I knew what to do – I quit the job! 

At the same time I’d been getting into home brewing.  I found that I loved making beers in my kitchen – in fact when I was supposed to be working I was instead often planning my next brew.  I even pompously gave my collection of plastic buckets a name – Heptonstall Brewery, named after the village where I lived. 

I loved the process of brewing, and the magic of fermentation.  And I was proud to be able to share my efforts with friends - proving that I could make better beers in my kitchen than we could buy in the pub. 

I felt sure that brewing could be my vocation in life. So after quitting the day job and selling my house, and with the help of family, I set up my first brewery in a tiny industrial unit and got to work.

It was… tough.

The reality is that it’s hard work selling beer. And even harder to brew it day-after-day in a freezing industrial unit in winter.  I had a few low points, and often questioned my impulsive decision to quit the cosy office job for a precarious life of hard graft.  But I stuck with it, and crucially I was slowly able to employ people to work alongside me. 

As the team grew, my confidence grew, and the brewery went from strength to strength. 

That was 13 years and three breweries ago.  It’s been a long road since then, but quitting a job and finding a vocation was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Maybe you’ve already found your vocation in life, but if you haven’t, please do it.  Sign up to that nursing course, join the political movement, start that business. Find that thing that really grabs you, and run at it. I can’t promise you that it’ll be easy, but it will be one of the best things you ever do.

John Hickling
Vocation Brewery