In recent weeks, we've had stories on here celebrating 100th brews and the first anniversaries of Aussie craft breweries. And while it's only right to celebrate such milestones, there's an anniversary on the horizon later this month that puts things in perspective.
On October 24, the Lord Nelson in The Rocks will mark 25 years under its current owners, who took over Sydney's oldest licensed hotel in the mid-1980s and installed a small brewery to make British style ales that's still going today.
Back then, other than the Sail & Anchor pub in Fremantle, which was to spawn the original Matilda Bay brewery, there was nothing of its sort in Australia. But Blair Hayden, a meat trader who had developed a taste for real ale while working in the UK, figured there was a niche that needed filling.
"The Lord Nelson came on the market and it was perfect," says Trystam Hayden, his son who runs the hotel today. 'He wanted to put a pub brewery in and brew English style ales. At the time, the only ales you could get were from Cooper's, but they were just in bottle."
Initially, they brewed four ales on a partial grain setup, before switching to full grain and expanding the lineup and brewhouse as their following grew. The early days weren't without incident, with stories told of the owners' tyres being slashed and abuse being hurled in the street by those who weren't happy that their "rough and tumble" pub had been taken over by people determined to return it to something resembling its original glory.
Yet they found plenty who did appreciate their efforts – and their beers – some of whom now have their names on plaques above the bar. And without ever brewing a lager, they went from surviving to thriving, developing the restaurant and accommodation side of the business and waiting for the rest of Australia to catch on to craft beer.
"The whole craft beer market has only just ramped up in the past five years and is still growing," says Trystam. "We've had more tourists coming through in recent years as well as beer connoisseurs and now even regular suit-wearing girls who would never have dreamed of drinking beer in the past come in and drink our beer."
The quarter century is being marked with an intimate dinner for around 30 people on October 24 in the bar area next to the brewhouse. The kitchen will show off food from the Eighties, Nineties and Noughties while the Lord’s regular beers will be served alongside a handful of ales aged in kegs for months especially for the occasion. A new beer, a Belgian style Blonde Ale, will also be launched on the night.
"It makes us happy to see where the beer industry is going and that the public is getting behind craft beer," says Trystam. "We slogged it out right at the start to make a name for it, so it's pleasing to see what's happening today."
Pic at top features Blair Hayden (right) and Trystam (second right). Brewer Andrew Robson is on the left.