Hebden Bridge isn’t just the lesbian capital of the UK – it’s also home to Vocation, which has been brewing craft beers there for the last five years. I picked up a selection of their excellent cans on my way through, including a decadent blueberry stout, a pillowy NEIPA, and a Nelson Sauvin grenade.
Back when lockdown was in full swing and the government was still telling us not to cough on each other, even planning a staycation seemed overly ambitious. Still, my partner set to work reading up on the prettiest villages in the UK like a checklist for us to visit. Among them, Hebden Bridge: described by various lists as the greatest town in Europe, the prettiest village in Yorkshire, and the lesbian capital of the UK.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have been worried that my girlfriend was so keen to visit the lesbian capital of the UK. But I was too busy getting excited to visit Vocation.
Breakfast Club 2.0
Of course I started with the stout. In fairness, it’s not my first beer of the day but it is my first review. I think that’s fair enough.
Breakfast Club 2.0 is a redo, a new version of the original Breakfast Club collaboration between Vocation and New Zealand brewery Yeastie Boys. Billed as breakfast in a can, the label is covered in blueberry waffles and the promise of a rich, fruity delight.
The body looks stouty enough. The head, however, is a little bit purple. It’s the shade porridge goes when you stir blueberries through it, or blueberry pancakes if you mix them overzealously.
The aroma is (quelle surprise) blueberry. Milk, light notes of chocolate.
The palate is where things get really interesting. Brown sugar sweetness to start, but as it warms on the tongue the blueberry flavours come alive, becoming gradually more intense and jammier. It’s a sharp, fruity, tart blueberry flavour that rounds it all off and lingers into the finish.
I’m not picking up the waffles, but I never cared for waffles for breakfast anyway. This is pretty great. 4/5
My partner generally only tolerates my love for beer, but occasionally we find a brew that tastes sufficiently like something else that she enjoys it. Her take: It’s dark, rich and syrupy like some of the other cake stouts I’ve given her, but less intense. It’s much lighter than Kentucky Bourbon Stout, for instance. She doesn’t pick up the waffles either.
Chop and Change (Nelson Sauvin hops)
Vocation calls this their “white label” beer. Essentially it’s a placeholder for all the experiments they come up with. A simple pale malt profile makes lots of room to have fun with whatever hops might be available. This year marks one of the first time Nelson Sauvin has been available in such high quantities, sparking off this concoction.
Chop and Change is straw yellow and hazy with a thin, white head. The aroma is a little bready, a little grainy. But there’s not much going on with the flavour. Is it grapefruit? Gooseberry maybe? I’m really straining here.
Nice little refresher after a bike ride, but I won’t be going for it again. 1/5
Strength in Numbers NEIPA
To quote the best film ever made: “two’s great, but three’s a crowd”. There’s no overcrowding with this trio of Citra, Sabro and El Dorado hops, though.
Strength in Numbers is golden and very hazy. On the nose I pick up a medley of peach schnapps, sherbet, banana and passion fruit.
The flavour is interesting, with a lot going on. Mango, peach, tangerine, and a little lemon to start, with lemon rind oiliness holding on to the finish. It lingers, drying out as we go. It’s not drying enough to make me reach immediately for a second sip, but I’m going back for more anyway to try to pick out more flavours.
I started thinking Strength in Numbers was a reference to the number of hops, scoffing that just three hop additions is low by today’s standards. Now, sheepishly I realise it could just as easily refer to the number of flavours and aromas this beer holds. This is a beer worth savouring to appreciate the range of what it has to offer. 4/5