Thursday, 30 April 2009

Nelson Brewery Trip

Last Saturday, along with 15 fellow local CAMRA branch members, I visited Nelson Brewery in Chatham. I’m not going to write too much here about the brewery, as there isn’t that much to write about. Suffice to say that Nelson are based in the Historic Former Naval Dockyard in the town and have been brewing since 1995.

The company started life as the Flagship brewery (Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar was, of course HMS Victory, and Victory was constructed at Chatham), but changed its name to Nelson in 2004 following a change in ownership. The current owners PiersMacDonald, and his partner Val, acquired the business in 2006, and since then have re-vamped some of the beers and have tweaked the recipes of others to ensure a more consistentproduct. No brewing sugars are used in the beers, and only the finest pale malt, produced in a traditional floor-maltings at Warminster, together with whole-leaf hops are used to brew the beers. All the Nelson beers have a naval theme to them, with names like Powder Monkey, Dog Watch Stout, England Expects, plus probably their best known beer Friggin in the Riggin.

There is never that much to see when visiting a micro-brewery and Nelson was no exception.The brewery is housed in one of the former workshops of this sprawling site. To say that the brewery looked rather chaotic would be an understatement, but Piers explained he was in the process of moving things around inside to allow the installation of a recently acquired 10-barrel plant, which will double the size of the brewery. His problem at the moment is finding the time to install this new equipment, as he is currently brewing flat out in order to keep up with the demand for his beers

Piers talked us through the brewing process, with particular emphasis on how Nelson brew their beers, and Val then explained about the importance of bottled beer to the company. She should know as she personally fills and caps each bottle by hand, and what’s more she hand labels them as well! Bottled beers account for some 20% of Nelson’s trade, with ASDA taking the lion’s share.

I am not quite certain of the time we left the brewery, but before we departed we were each presented with a souvenir glass. The rest of the day was spent visiting a few local hostelries - more about that in a later post!

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