There are few, if any, places in Australia that can rival The Rocks when it comes to recreating the feel of the old country. And within The Rocks there is nowhere that captures the essence of the classic British pub better than the Lord Nelson. The grand old building dating from 1841 – the oldest licensed hotel in Sydney – would grace any street corner from Brighton to Edinburgh and, thanks to the construction of a brewery in the 1986, has a fine selection of English style ales on tap to complete the picture.
From day one, the brewery has produced all natural ales – unfiltered and unpasteurised – inspired by the comeback of real ales in the UK at the time of its opening. It’s one of the most unique breweries you’ll come across too. Constructed inside a heritage listed building where none of the existing structure can be altered, its various tanks are found across two floors and several rooms of the hotel’s rabbit warren-like underbelly. The four original beers – the Nelson’s Blood, Trafalgar, Victory and Old Admiral – are still brewed along with the popular Three Sheets and Quayle Ale plus five or six seasonals.
Aside from the beer, the hotel also offers nine rooms of boutique accommodation upstairs and has a well-regarded restaurant, the Lord Nelson Brasserie, on the first floor serving modern Australian cuisine complemented by an excellent wine list and interesting selection of beers. They run regular wine dinners and two beer dinners every year, usually featuring a mix of their own beers (often aged kegs) and beers from other breweries. Downstairs in the main bar downstairs, the menu is full of traditional pub classics.
Given its location, it attracts as many tourists as locals, but it doesn’t take long at the bar to realise there’s a big band of loyal regulars of all ages who call the Lord Nelson home. With craft beer finally starting to appear in a small handful of venues and brewpubs across Sydney, it seems the city is catching up to what these regulars have known for more than 25 years – that proper beer in a proper pub tastes that much better.
Lord Nelson (NSW) Beers
Lord Nelson Quayle Ale
The Lord Nelson’s summer ale is designed to be approachable for newcomers to the craft beer world and also a refreshing quaffer on warmer days. An easy-drinking ale with subtle flavours and aromas.
Style: Summer Ale
Lord Nelson Trafalgar Pale Ale
The Trafalgar is made in the image of traditional English pale ales, meaning the focus is firmly on the malts. A bitter that will be familiar to those who’ve drunk in British pubs, it’s a solid session beer.
Style: Pale Ale
Lord Nelson Three Sheets
The house favourite and one of only two Lord Nelson beers to be available in the bottle, this is an Australian pale ale, meaning you’ll find lifted floral and citrus notes and a balanced malty dry finish.
Style: Australian Pale Ale
Lord Nelson Victory Bitter
Another English-inspired beer, this is a bigger and ballsier take on the pale ale style. Malt led with caramel overtones and generously hopped for a spicy bitter finish.
Style: English Bitter
Lord Nelson Old Admiral
The second of the brewery’s beers to be available in 330ml bottles as well as on tap at the pub – and Crafty’s favourite when we dropped in last time – this is an Old Ale, meaning it’s full of rich malty flavours and a pleasing alcohol warmth.
Style: Old Ale
Lord Nelson Nelson's Blood
One of the first beers ever made at the pub and still a favourite especially during the colder months, the Nelson’s Blood is the brewery’s take on the classic Porter style. Rich and creamy with a roasted finish reminiscent of Irish stouts.
Lord Nelson Double Nelson IPA
Usually when we announce a limited release beer from Sydney’s iconic Lord Nelson, it’s one that you have to travel to the hotel in The Rocks to sample. This time around, however, for the first time in its quarter century history the brewery is releasing some of its seasonals in 500ml bottles. First up for the treatment is its Double Nelson IPA, a souped up version of its popular Three Sheets American Pale Ale. It takes its name from an English cricketing tradition. Nelson, which is any multiple of 111, 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. We’re not quite sure how this relates to the beer, which is a straightforward American-inspired IPA with familiar citrus and piney aromas that follow through in spades in the mouth. The hops are prominent on the palate but, while the bitterness is noticeable it’s pretty mild for an IPA, making this a sessionable rather than aggressive take on the style.
In bottles nationwide where you find Three Sheets and Old Admiral
Style: US IPA
Lord Nelson Anileation 2013
You know there’s a cooler seasonal change on the horizon when some of the country’s annual beer releases start showing a little more of their dark and roasty side. Case in point is the 2013 version of Anileation from the Lord Nelson Brewery in Sydney. It’s a Dry Irish Stout that offers espresso and cocoa characters along with a malty, chocolate bitterness. As the name suggests, all of that rounds out to a dry finish. This isn’t a big hearty stout designed for the deepest depths of winter – after all, we’re still in the final weeks of summer and there are still plenty of warm evenings to be enjoyed. At 5.5 per cent, Anileation is a beer that should suit those sorts of evenings just nicely. Get in quickly though because the words ‘limited release’ mean the beer might be officially be gone before summer is.
Style: Dry Stout
Lord Nelson Royal Red
With the last of the One-Eyed Rye disappearing from the taps at the Lord Nelson and featuring at Newcastle’s Craft Beer Week, that means there’s room for something new at the hotel in The Rocks. And that new thing is the Royal Red, another beer that follows the Lord’s passion for all things British and beery. It’s an English mild ale, designed with sessionability at heart, and coming with “a nice hop aroma, malty palate and drying bitterness on the finish.” The Lord, which knows a thing or two about beer and food pairing, says it’s “perfect with sirloin and pommes frites” or a steak sandwich. That they happen to serve both in their Brasserie and Bar respectively is pure coincidence!!
Style: English Mild
Lord Nelson One Eyed Rye Ale 2012
Over at the Lord Nelson, they’ve brewed a batch of something we’re starting to see a little of in Australia: a Rye Ale. Called ‘One Eyed Rye’, it made its debut slightly in advance of Sydney Craft Beer Week, during which The Lord is hosting a brewer’s dinner. After that, it’ll be available at the bar until it’s gone. Trystam Hayden of the Lord Nelson tells us it’s a golden-coloured, 4.6 per cent affair that’s “luxurious and malty on the palate, with fresh floral aromas and a dry, spritzy finish."
Style: Rye Ale
Lord Nelson Double Nelson
In cricket, ‘Nelson’ is a superstitious term used when a score, or multiple, of 111 is reached – 222 is a Double Nelson, 333 is a Triple Nelson, and so on. What that has to do with this beer is anyone’s guess, but it’s certainly another multi-layered moniker that plays on the English-ness of all the Lord’s beers. But, ironically, the Double Nelson is actually their take on an American-style Pale Ale, and a quite fine one at that. It has the highly-hopped citrus and pine characters you’d expect of the style, with a dry, bitter caramel finish from the malt billing. But despite so much flavour packed in, it’s a surprisingly refreshing ale. You may want to double up.
Style: American Pale Ale
Lord Nelson 111
The 111 is named for “our late comrade, Ron (Ronaldo Grossetti) Gross” – one of the original shareholders and great friend of the Lord Nelson pub. He died a few years ago and this beer was created in his memory. An English style India Pale Ale brewed with British malts and hops and dry hopped with Goldings and Target, the brewers tell us it’s a “full flavoured ale, copper in colour, with a mellow, rounded palate.”
Lord Nelson One Eyed Rye
Having turned to Belgium for inspiration for their last seasonal, the delicious Anniversary Ale brewed to mark 25 years of bringing real beer to the people of The Rocks, the Lord Nelson brew team are back on more familiar territory for Christmas. The One Eyed Rye is a traditional ale made with 50% rye malt. For those unfamiliar with rye malt, it can impart a rather unique character, frequently richer in body and often lending a slightly spicy, smoky malt character. It’s appearing in a few Aussie craft beers these days, but rarely in such a high proportion as here. According to the good folks at the Lord Nelson, this one is: “Luxurious and malty on the palate with a drying finish and lifted florals on the nose coming from dry hopping with Amarillo.” On tap the pub now.
Style: Rye Beer
Lord Nelson Anniversary Ale
To celebrate its quarter century of bringing traditional British style ales to the people of The Rocks, the Lord Nelson did the obvious thing: they brewed a Belgian ale! Launched on the night of their anniversary dinner, an occasion on which they paired their beers with classic dishes from the 80s, 90s and 00s, it’s a strong golden ale style and really quite delicious. Clean and sparkling in the wine glass in which it’s being served, it has the lightly spicy, citrus peel aroma typical of the style, a smooth, creamy body and some sweet, honeyed malt and bubblegum flavours. Wrapped up with a peppery, slightly bitter finish, it’s one of several seriously tasty Belgian ales to roll out of Aussie micros in the past few weeks, something we’d love to see more of.
Style: Belgian Golden Ale
Lord Nelson Anileation 2010 and 2011 & Broadside
You’ll always find a special release or two on tap at the Lord Nelson whenever you pass through, but occasionally you get an extra special special release. Brewer Damon decided to hold back a keg of last year’s Annileation, the brewery’s annual Irish style stout complete with “mocha notes on the palate and a creamy texture”. The new release has been pouring for a little while now and is due to be joined by the aged version very soon. According to the brewery it’s brought a “mellow softness to the rich mocha palate, a deep colour to the head” and delivers “a finer bead”. Look out too for the Broadside, the Lord Nelson’s take on a Belgium strong ale in style, complete with “layers of toasty caramel malts and chocolate notes on the finish”. Goes great with the prime Hereford rib eye in the Brasserie, apparently.
Lord Nelson 2IC
With winter approaching fast, it’s time for beers to get darker and warmer. At the Lord Nelson, that means the return of their 2IC Brown Ale. Taking its name from the abbreviated form of the nautical term Second in Charge, it was designed to sit next to the brewery hotel’s Old Admiral as a seasonal version of their dark ale. According to the brewer, you’ll find “biscuit & toffee malt flavours dominate” with “fruity hop characters and a gentle bitterness” to follow. On tap at the bar now…
Style: English Brown Ale
Bitterness: 28 IBU