Nelson Brewery (Chatham)

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The Nelson Brewery, Unit 2, Building 64, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TE

Brewing commenced as The Flagship Brewery in 1995 and it was renamed Nelson Brewery in 2003.


THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FLAGSHIP BREWERY The Editor is grateful to Roy Murrant for his help in obtaining this information.

The Flagship Brewery was started in February 1995 by Andrew Purcell and his father-in-law, Tony Smith. Andrew, a former Local Government Officer with Dartford Borough Council, had been a home-brew enthusiast for over 10 years. It was at the Maidstone Beer Festival, (Museum of Kent Life, Cobtree) in 1991 that Andrew first joined CAMRA and he became interested in Micro Brewing after seeing articles in CAMRA's monthly paper, What’s Brewing.

Investigations at that time into the cost of setting up a micro-brewery could not be taken forward due to work commitments.

The situation started to change when in June 1994, Andrew's job was affected by structural changes. An offer of redundancy was made which was accepted and the search for suitable equipment and premises began. Tony had agreed to assist with the financial side of the venture but as he became more and more interested in the running of the business it was decided to form a partnership.

Nelson Brewery Chatham label.jpg

The search for premises started where the interest began, at the Museum of Kent Life. There were, however, no existing buildings that could be easily adapted to house a brewery. Another location had to be found. Andrew was keen on developing a visitor area within the Brewery so the next approach was made to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham.

The Dockyard proved fruitful with the present warehouse unit being suggested. It seemed ideal having the right size, good location, it was central to a catchment of potential customers and had good road connections including the new Medway Tunnel nearby.

The unit became available in January 1995 and after preparation works the brewery, a refurbished 5 barrel kit, was installed on 9th February. The equipment, supplied by Total Brewing International of Worcester comprises a 7 barred Mash Tun with 5 barrel Copper, Hot Liquor Tank, and 3 Fermentation Vessels.

Andrew decided on the name for the brewery after discovering that the HMS Victory was built in the Dockyard, this having been the “Flagship” of the famous Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Production commenced on 25th February with the now popular ENSIGN (4.2%) followed by FUTTOCK (5.2%), a dark ruby red ale. After these came CAPSTAN (3.8%), CROWS NEST (4.8%), a pale coloured ale the style of which was requested by the Man of Kent, Rochester and finally GANG PLANK (5.8%) which was produced as a winter brew. Production is currently at around 8 barrels per week.

In addition to the main portfolio of ales, special brews have been carried out, firstly for VE day called VE SPECIAL (4.0%) and one to commemorate the 190th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, NELSONS BLOOD (6.0%) . A blended ale is also supplied to the Man of Kent, Rochester, called JAYS REVENGE (5.0%).

An award has recently been gained at the Small Independent Brewers Association South East Beer Festival held at Hove, Sussex on 24th/25th November. In a blind tasting competition by a band of judges, including the Head Brewer of Harveys and the Ex Head Brewer Of King & Barnes, the brewery’s Capstan Ale (3.8%) came 1st in the “Standard Bitter” class. In addition a separate voting by visitors to the Festival for “the people’s choice” made Crows Nest Ale (4 8%) 2nd overall.