Brew & A: Andrew Robson of The Lord


When the Lord Nelson took out Champion Draught Beer at the Sydney Royal Beer & Cider Show earlier this month, it wasn't just one of Australia's pioneering brewpubs that enjoyed the accolade.

As The Lord's founder Blair Hayden was quick to point out, Nelspresso Brown Ale's success was a recognition of the work of Andrew Robson, the head brewer who started at the Lord Nelson back in 2004 as an occasional relief brewer helping out where needed.

"I would come in intermittently during the year and just jump in as the regular brewer was on holiday," Andrew says.

At the time, Andrew was working at his dad's homebrew shop, which had opened in the 1980s to try and combat the lack of interesting beer in Australia and was the place where Andrew first picked up a love for making beer.

"That was before craft beer was really anything," Andrew says. "Dad came from the UK so he was pretty disappointed in the lack of decent beer. So he started up his own homebrewing store."

It was no ordinary homebrew shop. Mel Robson helped give many key figures in the Australian beer world their start in brewing, either with jobs in the store or by supplying equipment, ingredients and knowledge. Alumni include the likes of Willie Simpson (the country's leading beer writer before launching Seven Sheds in Tasmania), Doug Donelan (Malt Shovel head brewer and now head of NZ Hops) and Dave Edney (HPA and previously head brewer at Mountain Goat).

Eventually, Andrew would take on different roles at the brewpub in The Rocks until he became head brewer. Since then, Sydney has enjoyed a boom in the number of local breweries and Andrew has played a central role in driving the brewery's rotating roster of releases, including the most recent, Peking Poppi.

"I think the level of curiosity has changed," he says. "Previously, we'd do seasonals and they just wouldn't move; people really didn't go outside their circle of what they would drink and these days it's almost the opposite." 

Here he is to tell us more about the man behind the beers in our ongoing Brew & A series.


Brew & A: Andrew Robson

Andrew fourth from left with Lord Nelson founder Blair Hayden in trademark red specs.

Why are you a brewer?

I am attracted to the artistic nature of brewing beer and the overall passion involved in the process.


What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?

Another struggling artist.


What was your epiphany beer?

A 17-year-old bottle of Coopers Stout. It was in the cellar here and had been put away for ageing. It kind of got forgotten over time and one time when I was doing some rearranging I found this old box of it.

It was amazing and like nothing I'd ever tasted. It had aged stunningly so it gave me a insight into how much ageing can really take the right style of beer someplace else.


How did you first get involved in the beer world?

My old man (Mel Robson) started up ESBrewing Supplies back in the eighties and, when I finished high school, I started work with him learning about all the ingredients and basics of brewing.


What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?

I made a rye beer (Lord Nelson's One Eyed Rye) with around 55 percent malted rye in the recipe that ended up as a thick and viscous beer that was golden coloured with nice aromatics.


What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?

Yeast.


Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?

No. Although there are instances where improvements could be made, but never have I outright rejected a brew.

 

Andrew (second left) enjoying a glass of The Lord's 25th anniversary ale with (l-r) his former head brewer Damo, Trystam Hayden (now running a brewery in Canada) and Blair.

If you could do a guest stint at any brewery in the world, which would it be and why?

Rogue in the States. They grow a lot of their own ingredients and make some twisted stuff with cool looking bottle graphics.


Which local (Aussie or Kiwi) breweries inspire you?

Garage Project from Wellington. 


What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?

Lord Nelson Old Admiral. 


And what would be the soundtrack to those days? 

Led Zeppelin's album Presence. 


If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?

Wine.


What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?

That when they tell you the kettles hot, just listen to them and refrain from touching it.


And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?

Be prepared to do some cleaning.


You can read other entries in our Brew & A series here. And take a trip back in time with our look back on the first three decades of The Lord.

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