The Lord Nelson is arguably Australia’s oldest brewery. On the 29th June 1831 a man named Richard Phillips obtained a liquor licence for the Shipwright Arms on the north-east corner of Sydney’s Kent and Argyle streets. The Shipwright Arms was to go through a number of owners and name changes throughout the years (including a minor relocation across the road). In 1986, now current owner Blair Hayden bought the pub and restored the ailing venue to its former colonial glory – think sandstone walls and old wooden tables. All this colonial appropriation got Blair thinking. Why didn’t he, like his publican predecessors, brew his own beer? Thus a micro-brewery was born.
The Lord Nelson’s brewery is woven throughout the venue making for a unique spectacle. The brewing process first begins in the hotel’s cellar where the malt is mashed. The ale is then fermented at the rear of the bar before being taken downstairs into the cellar to be matured and conditioned. Finally, it’s sent through the taps to the bar on the first floor and into your empty schooner.
It may seem like a fairly natural progression for a trendy pub to brew its own beers. But a) it’s not (due to the cash required and the inherent risk of failure) and b) it’s important to remember the broader context at the time.
An oligopoly of big brewers dominated the market with generic lagers of questionable quality. Enter The Lord Nelson. Clever and brave enough to find the cash and absorb the risk, Blair and his team took on the big brewers, forever immortalising themselves as pioneers of Australia’s craft beer scene.
The Lord Nelson create beer in the style of the traditional English style ales. The most prolific of their beers is the Three Sheets. Your humble author went to the Lord Nelson Brewery to sample their entire collection. Emerging from the pub buzzed and slightly bleary-eyed he had failed his task. He had made the error of starting with the Three Sheets and like many before him was unable to let it go (and that’s the last time I’ll write in third person prose – apologies).
To be honest, The Three Sheets isn’t as flavoursome as some of its other pale ale compatriots – and this is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, it still has the dense concoction of flavours that you’ve come to expect from your craft beer, it’s just that these are a bit more balanced and subtle than others.
On one side of the spectrum is the beer’s sweetness. You’ll come across light malt-caramel flavours coupled with herbaceous hop characters which are very satisfying. However, these flavours are bridled by the presence of a really great beery bitterness.
Although I have been banging on about the beer’s low-key flavouring for the past two paragraphs, it needs to be said that Three Sheets still holds a fairly heavy body. It’s definitely a beer guys.
A crisp set of balanced and uncomplicated flavours combined with a reasonable level of standard drinkage (1.3 standard drinks in a 330ml bottle) make the Three Sheets a very, very sessionable beer. The flavours and general pale-aleness of the beer lend itself to the winter months. With that said, you will find plenty of empty Three Sheets throughout the sillier seasons. Don’t bother trying to pigeonhole the Three Sheets – just enjoy.
Eating: Pub grub wouldn’t go astray here. To be more specific – steak and mash.
Vibing: A Sunday afternoon pub crawl in the Rocks, laden in your best-flannelled fabrics. It would be immoral not to start at the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Other musts are the Harts Pub and the Glenmore Hotel.