Blair Hayden, managing director of Sydney’s Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, can talk elegantly on all sorts of topics, but what gets him fired up is if you ask him whether or not he’s running Sydney’s oldest pub.
At least two other pubs—the Fortune of War and the Hero of Waterloo—have licenses that predate the Lord Nelson. But these pubs, Hayden explains, have moved or changed hands. His pub has existed on the same site since 1841. “We have the oldest continuous license.”
Hayden’s pub is in a trendy area of Sydney known as the Rocks, which used to be a naval base and is now becoming a place that extracts dollars from tourists from around the world. The Lord Nelson has also been gentrified. When Hayden bought the pub in 1984, he said “it was a worker’s pub and very quiet. There hadn’t been any money spent on the place in years.”
Hayden spent A$2.5 million to convert the pub into Sydney’s first brewpub in 1986, and has pumped in more money making the rooms in an accompanying hotel more sophisticated.
The Lord Nelson is a cozy place, but cramped; the serving tanks, for example, are wedged next to the Veuve Clicquot, some pears, and a rhubarb soda Hayden says is disgusting. But since it’s a historic building, the Lord Nelson can’t expand.
Hayden’s son, Trystam, makes six beers. Most have nautical names—Victory Bitter, Three Sheets (an IPA), and Old Admiral, a strong ale. But then there’s the Lord Nelson’s wheat beer, Quayle Ale, which is named after a state visit that then-Vice President Dan Quayle made to Australia in 1989. “He stopped by our pub and liked the wheat beer,” Hayden said, “so we decided to name it after him.” The gesture, Hayden says, resulted in global publicity for the Lord Nelson.