Lord Nelson celebrates 30th anniversary

The Lord Nelson Hotel (Photo: Wikimedia)

The Lord Nelson Hotel, Sydney’s oldest continuously licensed hotel (established 1841), celebrated its 30th anniversary as a craft brewery last week.

Licensee and owner Blair Hayden held court in his inimitable style, with fruity language and many anecdotes about life ‘with the lord’. There was one about the former US vice president Dan Quayle who had specifically asked to visit the Lord Nelson on a Sydney visit, complete with his security detail. After the visit, Hayden announced he was changing the name of one of his beers to Quayle Ale (it’s still being brewed today), whereupon many Americans protested ‘Why did you name a beer after that dickhead?’

Said Hayden:

“Well, he does have three things going for him. He plays golf, he has a very attractive wife, and he drinks beer. So he must be an f…ing good bloke.”

The callers were usually placated.

Over 30 supporters enjoyed a six-course dinner with six Lord Nelson beers, kicking off with Quayle Ale, which is described as a refreshing, easy-drinking summer ale with subtle citrus, malt and hop notes.

A new beer, named Peking Poppi Spiced Ale after one of Hayden’s daughters, has subtle aromas of star anise and fennel which give it an attractive – and unusual – spicy aromaticity.

Double Nelson India Pale Ale was served with fish and chips. This is a characterful beer with a good story. It’s actually a souped-up, double-hopped version of the brewery standard, Three Sheets Pale Ale.

Says the brewery:

“It takes its name from an English cricketing tradition. Nelson, which is any multiple of 111 (Double Nelson is 222, Triple Nelson is 333, etc), is deemed to be an unlucky number for a team to sit upon. Former English umpire David Shepherd was one who believed the superstition could be overcome by only ever having one foot on the ground at a time, which he would do even while officiating in Test matches.”

I can’t vouch for the truth of this tale.

The brewery has six mainstay beers: Quayle Ale, Trafalgar Pale Ale, Three Sheets, Victory Bitter, Old Admiral and Nelson’s Blood. There’s also a ‘steady round’ of seasonal ales: 111, Broadside, Anileation, Royal Red, One Eye Rye and Double Nelson. As you’ll deduce, most of the names relate to the original Lord Nelson in some way.

May favourite is Three Sheets, an aromatic pale ale that I can drink several glasses of (I’m not a big beer drinker) without tiring of it.

Hayden finished the evening serving a three-year-old Broadside, which is described as a Belgian Dubbel style with complex malt and hints of caramel and chocolate. It was served with 24-month-old Reggiano cheese.

The Lord Nelson is Australia’s oldest continually operating pub brewery, and Hayden is proud of the fact that its wine list was named best pub wine list in Australia last year at Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards.

Hayden is a publican who looks the part: well-rounded, talkative and jocular, with a white handlebar moustache, he is the modern-day lord. He related a yarn about the early days of the pub when he was still serving mainstream beers.

“There was an American Naval ship in port, and Argyle Street (in The Rocks, which leads up to the Lord Nelson) was a sea of white, with a crowd of thirsty sailors. I was new to running a pub, having been in the export meat trade. These guys had been at sea for weeks and by 2.30pm I realised that we were about to run out of beer. I phoned Carlton and United Brewery and said ‘Emergency! You’ve heard of the pub with no beer, well it’s not going to be my pub. We need beer.’ The voice on the end of the line (his name was Hamish) said ‘Your delivery day is Thursday’. It was Monday. I said ‘We’ve got no beer. We need it now.’ He said ‘Your delivery date is Thursday’. I said ‘Hamish, I’m telling you now that I will never buy another drop of Carlton beer’. He said ‘You’re going to regret that’, and I said ‘No, you are’, and hung up.”

Hayden then rang another big brewer, Lion Nathan.

“They sent six Falcon station wagons loaded with kegs right away. I’ve never forgotten them for that, and never will.”

Lord Nelson beer is now exported to China. Some of its beers are now in cans, as the market for canned beer has revived.

Hayden, reminiscing about the early years getting established, paid tribute to Rockpool, Quay and Phillip’s Foote restaurants, all in The Rocks, for being consistent supporters. Also Charles Leong, who introduced the sommeliers of Sydney to Lord Nelson beers at the restaurant where he worked in Kellett Street, Kings Cross.

“Every night after work, the sommeliers of Sydney would go around to Charles for a late-night drink and he’d serve them our beer. He helped put us on the map.”

The final speaker for the evening was head brewer Andrew Robson, who has been a steady influence in the brewery, with 12 years’ service. He remarked that at 31, he was only one year older than the brewery, but he was still working there because “it’s still producing the sort of beer I like.”

Amen to that, and ‘Praise the lord!’

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