Stancill Brewery

It’s not uncommon for an apprentice to be tasked with making a good brew, but a growing Sheffield business has taken this to a completely different level after creating one of the most sought after jobs in the city after teaming up with Skills Made Easy, a unique Sheffield City Region initiative aimed at helping small businesses to grow.

Stancill Brewery produces more than 20,000 pints of beer each week which are sold to pubs and clubs throughout the UK. After winning a number of awards for its popular range of beers, brewery owners Thomas Gill and Dr Adam Hague decided to resurrect a centuries-old brewing tradition.

Apprenticeships in the brewing industry were once commonly used by Master Brewers to allow a lifetime of knowledge to be passed on to the next generation. However, as a relatively new brewery, Stancill had no previous experience of setting up or running an apprenticeship programme and so called on Skills Made Easy for help, giving a would-be brewer a unique chance to build a career in a growing area of the drinks market.

Working closely with the brewery, Skills Made Easy helped Stancill to create a bespoke apprenticeship programme, as well as overseeing the recruitment process. The job proved to be extremely popular: so much so that the brewery decided to give ten candidates a chance try their hand at brewing beer for the first time.

20 year-old Connell Henson from Gleadless proved to be top of the hops, when it came to mastering beer making and since joining the brewery on a permanent basis is working towards a nationally recognised qualification in brewing, as well as assisting master brewer Dean Pleasant in producing Stancill’s full beer range.

Connell’s work includes cleaning and sterilising the brewing equipment and casks used by the brewery, as well as being responsible for transferring Stancill’s unique lager from the large conditioning tanks to pressurised kegs.

Thomas Gill, Managing Director, Stancill Brewery said:

“There’s a long tradition in the brewing industry of the skills being carefully nurtured, developed and passed from one generation to the next. As a relatively young business, we’ve seen our workforce grow quickly over the past two years, but when it came to producing our beer, we felt it was important to continue this tradition and so decided to create a chance for an apprentice to learn the art of brewing.

“We weren’t really sure what was involved with an apprenticeship and so after looking at various options we contacted Skills Made Easy for help. They made the process simple and straightforward from the start. When the job was advertised, we were surprised by the huge amount of interest in the vacancy and so we felt the fairest way to choose between the candidates was to hold a brewery open day, giving candidates a chance to put their skills to the test, as well as giving us a chance to see how they could perform.

“The Brewing industry is relatively unusual one. Most brewers are expected to have completed an apprenticeship at the beginning of their careers. It can be a physical demanding, technically challenging job but working with our head brewer Dean, Connell has settled well into his new role and he’s doing really well.”

Laura Hayfield, Programme Manager, Skills Made Easy said:

“It’s perhaps no surprise that a rare brewing apprenticeship proved to be in high demand from candidates hoping to break into the industry. South Yorkshire has a rich brewing heritage and through the help Skills Made Easy provided to Stancill, we were able to help the brewery continue a tradition which has helped generations of brewers to build a career in the industry. For employers which have not previously employed an apprentice, it can be sensible to offer apprentices a short work trial and the brewing day organised by Stancill proved to be instrumental in helping them to find the right candidate for their business, whilst also helping potential apprentices decide whether the vacancy was right for them.

“Apprentices work towards a recognised qualification, which can help them as their career progresses. At Skills Made Easy we work closely with training providers throughout the UK, meaning that we were able to help Conal secure a qualification specifically in brewing, which will set him in good stead as builds a career in his industry.”

Stancill Brewery was launched by Thomas Gill and Dr Adam Green in 2014 however its origins date back more than 200 years to the Barnsley Brewery. The brewery was responsible for putting South Yorkshire on the map for generations with its iconic Barnsley Bitter and was based next to Barnsley FC’s Oakwell Football Stadium and traded until 2013 as Oakwell Brewery. A chance visit to the brewery revealed plans for the brewery’s closure and so the two friends mounted an eleventh hour rescue bid.

Tom and Adam secured the company’s brewing equipment and were given just six weeks to find premises to house their new brewery. Changes in the way water is supplied to Barnsley meant that sourcing a suitable site in the town was not possible – with water being supplied to the town from the River Ouse, which made it unsuitable for brewing. The brewery relocated to Sheffield, which is supplied with the softer Pennine water, originally used to brew Barnsley Bitter, and allowing Stancill’s Barnsley Bitter to remain as true to the original recipe as possible.

Skills Made Easy provides a comprehensive range of training and apprenticeship advice to small and medium-sized businesses based within the Sheffield City Region. The programme is available at no costs to companies in the region and also helps businesses to access government grants to cover the costs of training. To find out more about the scheme, telephone: 0114 229 6183 or visit


About Andy Cullen

Andy has been actively involved in CAMRA since the early 2000s after being recruited to sit on a National Younger Members Task Group. Since then he has held roles on the branch committee including Secretary, Membership Secretary, Magazine Editor, Chair and now Social Secretary. Andy has also been involved with the Steel City Beer & Cider Festival almost every year since becoming active in the branch.

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