A Victory for good taste?

There have been many glasses raised in honour of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, without doubt the greatest of all British naval heroes.

But this year, the 200th anniversary of his death at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, many of those toasts will be drunk with specially-brewed ale.

A hearty number of brewers have already produced commemorative ales with more likely to be unveiling beers that pay homage to Lord Nelson shortly.

With names such as Victory’s Home, Admiral’s Reserve, Trafalgar 200, England Expects and 1805 ale, the British beer industry is leading the way when it comes to proposing a toast to the naval hero.

Flavours vary from “liqueur chocolate with the merest hint of tar” to “fruit hop flavours with a bittersweet aroma” or a “complex malt flavour… with traces of pepper, dark fruits and caramelised orange” in the special brews.

Some brewers, with particularly relevant connections to Lord Nelson, have had commemorative ale for a number of years. But what better chance to re-launch and re-market than the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and the national celebrations that will come with it.

First off the mark with bicentenary commemorative ales are those close to naval dockyards, others with a strong coastal heritage, or brewers like Woodforde’s in Norfolk, operating a few miles as the crow flies from where Nelson was born in the tiny village of Burnham Thorpe on September 29, 1758.

Fittingly, they have a couple of ales that will cause people to pause and think about Nelson’s immense contribution to British history in Admiral’s Reserve (5%) and Nelson’s Revenge (4.5%), both re-launched for the bicentenary.

Woodforde’s director Dennis Nudd explained: “We are a Norfolk Brewery using Norfolk-grown Maris-Otter barley to produce all of our beers. “We are proud of our roots and proud of the fact that Nelson, a national hero, was also a Norfolk boy. If we can’t shout about it this year then when can we?”

Some of it will be drunk in the pub where Nelson himself enjoyed a tipple and also held his farewell dinner before returning to sea as the captain of the Agamemnon in 1793 after spending five frustrating years ‘on the beach’ in Norfolk on half pay without a ship.

The pub, then known as The Plough and now as the Lord Nelson, remains virtually as the Vice-Admiral would recognise, apart from it now bearing his name. Indeed, walk on the pub’s flagstone floor and you may well be treading in his very footsteps.

In conjunction with Fox Brewery, a microbrewery from nearby Heacham, the pub is selling Nelson’s Blood, a 5.1% bottled beer with a hint of cloves derived from the Nelson’s Blood rum made at what 200 years ago was Lord Nelson’s local.

Along the East Anglian coastline, where Nelson often sailed as he called in at ‘Yarmouth Roads’ after great battles at Cape St Vincent or Copenhagen, Southwold-based Adnams also has a Trafalgar tipple called Flagship.

This Article is from Beers of the World Issue 1, and the rest can be found here. 

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