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Crafty Pint

Your Guide to Australian Craft Beer / Wednesday 30 July 2014

Murray's (NSW)

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Starting out as the brewery that gave the Pub With No Beer its beer, the Murray’s operation moved to Port Stephens once word of its high quality brews meant they could no longer be contained by a pub in regional New South Wales. Now sharing a site with Port Stephens winery a short drive up the coast from Newcastle, the ever-expanding brewery is housed in a former wine storage shed next to rows of vines just up the hill from a bar, restaurant and function room.

The original brew system is a wonderful copper clad piece of engineering, the likes of which would have filled Heath Robinson’s dreams. It had, however, become incapable of meeting demand alone so has been joined by a second system that allows brewers Shawn Sherlock and Ian Watson to double batch brew – something that’s essential given the number of short run specials they produce in addition to the year round Murray’s regulars.

With a fondness for pushing the bounds of brewing and mixing and matching styles – not to mention a love for the new wave of Kiwi hops – they’re known for producing full-flavoured beers, whether lower alcohol ones like their Punch & Judy or the big, bold Wild Thing and Spartacus.

The ongoing expansion of the brewhouse is in keeping with Murray’s aim of seeing good craft beer all along the East Coast; every nook and cranny of the shed is steadily being filled with beer and the gear with which to make it, including the wooden barrels used for their annual Anniversary Ale releases. These come in champagne bottles and have been known to feature – deliberately – brettanomyces, the wild yeast used to add farmhouse and souring characteristics to some Belgian styles. It’s a side of the Murray’s enterprise that is expected to grow; Shawn intends to build a dedicated barrel room, in much the same way as fellow brewing mad scientist Brendan Varis of Feral plans to on Australia’s other coast. As to whether Aussies are ready for such large amounts of sour beer, Shawn says: “Build it, brew it and they will come!”

Regulars

Murray's Angry Man Pale Ale

Murray’s flagship beer, the Angry Man Pale Ale (formerly Nirvana Pale Ale) was tweaked at the end of 2010, firming up its bold hop character into something even punchier than before. A hybrid of an American Pale Ale combined with the classic English Pale Ale, the beer is a brilliant light-golden colour with a full-bodied finish and complex character. The beer’s fresh citrusy/spicy aroma and flavour is strongly influenced by generous use of New Zealand-grown hops balanced with biscuity/toffee flavours from selected caramalts. The brewers recommend pairing it with hot and spicy food such as Thai, Indian or Vietnamese dishes.

Style: Hybrid US / English Pale Ale
Strength: 4.5%

Murrays_angry_man_pale_ale_01_bottle

Murray's Rudeboy Pilsner

A crisp, refreshing take on the North German style of pilsner but given a New World twist thanks to the use of New Zealand’s motueka hop, a derivative of the European Saaz used in classic pilsners. It pours a pale straw colour with an almost meringue-like head. The citrus aroma is balanced by sweet biscuity malts, and finished with a refreshing bitterness. Made with classic German malts and using a traditional pilsner/lager process of cold fermentation and extended conditioning periods, Murray’s Rudeboy Pilsner is the only bottle-conditioned Pilsner brewed in Australia. Murray’s recommend pairing it with seafood, while it’s also used in their sausages served at the brewery.

Style: German Pilsner
Strength: 4.8%

Murrays_rudeboy_pilsner_01_bottle

Murray's Whale Ale

A wheat beer with a difference, Murray’s Whale Ale is created in the American Wheat style, making it a lighter, crisper alternative to hefeweizens and witbiers. Named in honour of the creatures that grace the shores of Port Stephens, this unfiltered wheat beer has low bitterness and is a very easy-drinking beer, making it the brewery’s most popular. They suggest pairing it with white meats and salads.

Style: American Wheat Beer
Strength: 4.5%

Murrays_whale_ale_01_bottle

Murray's Punch & Judy

One of Crafty’s picks for beers that said something about the state of the craft beer market in 2010, the Punch & Judy shows just what can be done with a lower alcohol beer. Weighing in at less than 4%, it takes the classic English pub ales designed to be quaffed by the pint and throws a load of tropical NZ hops at them to create a really wonderful beer. Strong British malt flavours combine with the rich nutty caramel flavour of the dark crystal malt and are joined by the strong hop flavour and aroma of Riwaka and Motueka hops.

Style: English Ale
Strength: 3.9%

Murrays_punch_and_judy_01_bottle

Murray's Icon 2IPA

We’ll never forget Crafty’s first encounter with the Icon. Encouraged by an enthusiastic beer lover to try it soon after arriving in Oz, it sparked a chain reaction in which Crafty became the one persuading others to give it a go. A big and bold marriage of powerful aromatic hops with a chewy malt backbone, all rounded off by a hefty and lasting bitterness, it’s rightly regarded as among the best Aussie craft beers and one plenty were delighted to see added to Murray’s permanent roster.

Style: American Double IPA
Strength: 7.5%

Murrays_icon_2ipa_01_bottle

Murray's Rudeboy Pilsner (Bottled)

With their new brewery taking shape in their shed on Bob’s Farm, Murray’s is preparing for the next stage in its existence, one that’s moving ever further away from its beginnings in the famous Pub With No Beer. First up is the addition of a third beer to its year round packaged range as the Rudeboy Pilsner takesits Quadrophenia-esque stylings from tap to bottle. Head brewer Shawn Sherlock is a bona fide Kiwi hop man and Kiwi hops love few beers – if any – as much as a pilsner, with this New World take on the classic Czech style using Motueka and Pacifica hops from across the Tasman to add citrus aromatics and a distinct bitterness to the sweet European malt backbone.

Style: Pilsner
Strength: 4.8%

Murray_s-rudeboy-bottle_bottle

Specials

Murray's / Crafty Pint Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep '14

The unlikely tale of the Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep rolls on, getting smokier and fishier as it goes. For those new to the beer, it began as an idea at Crafty Towers for a beer to enter the Beervana 2012 Media Brew competition, became a 10 percent smoked imperial oyster and mussel stout brewed with a Trappist yeast, won the competition with a perfect score and was scaled up from that 20 litre batch to a commercial release last year. Murray’s head brewer Shawn Sherlock said it would never be repeated but relented in the end, in part due to a desire to see how the 100s of blue and green-lipped mussels and Port Stephens oysters would work in the hopback of his new brewery and also as last year’s batch failed to make it as far and wide around the country as intended. For this year’s batch, the percentage of peated distilling malt was increased (despite Shawn once saying it was the peated malt he feared in beer more than the molluscs) and the beer returned. If anything, this year’s third version allows more of its composite parts to share the spotlight. The distinctly fruity esters of the Belgian yeast are apparent alongside the sweet smoke aromas, while the salty brininess of the late addition of seafood comes into play at the end once the rich mid-palate malts have done their thing. It may sound weird (and given it’s the only commercial beer The Crafty Pint has helped design we’re undoubtedly biased) but it is a uniquely delicious beer. (Unless you’re allergic to shellfish; one prominent Sydney sommelier and bar owner with an aversion to shellfish was desperate to try it last year and figured the levels of mollusc would be minimal – only to fall ill and come out in hives for a couple of days afterwards. At least he knew we weren’t kidding about the mussels and oysters!)

Available:

Murray’s
Good craft beer stockists around Australia
Beervana 2014 Australia Bar

Style: Smoked Imperial Belgio Mollusc Stout
Strength: 10.0%

Abbb_listing_bottle

Murray's Anniversary Ale 8

Every year on its birthday, which falls on New Year’s Day, Murray’s releases its Anniversary Ale. Always big, always oaked and always an evolution on the previous year’s recipe, past years have also tended to see the beer get bigger year in, year out, with the ABV percentage climbing, the number of yeasts used on the rise and sometimes even the number of types of oak used increasing too. For number 8, however, they’ve decided to head back to where it all started with the first Anniversary Ale. It’s a barley wine style inspired by beers from the US, the UK and Belgium that tips the scales at a mere 10 per cent. Head brewer Shawn Sherlock tells us: “It has rich crystal malt character and assertive bitterness and hop flavour to finish. As previous vintages have shown, extensive cellaring [up to 10 years] will be well rewarded with a depth of complexity of flavour and aroma that only careful bottle ageing brings.” Just 1,000 750ml bottles are available and can be ordered direct from the brewery.

Available:

Murray’s

Style: Barley Wine
Strength: 10%

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Murray's Moon Boy

The Crafty Pint legal team is considering taking action against Murray’s if they don’t cough up fees for image rights for their newest beer. OK, not really – the website’s founder doesn’t own a maroon sweater like the bearded, bespectacled chap on Moon Bay’s decal and given we allowed them to use our rippled physique as the basis for the Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep label, we can’t really start playing funny buggers now. OK, that’s a lie too as the only thing rippling about the site’s founder’s body are his love handles when enjoying a good belly laugh. Anyway, where were we again? Ah yes, a new beer. And one that few might have expected from Murray’s, who usually operate in the upper reaches of the ABV realm when sending new beers into the world. Not this time, with Moon Boy being a golden ale designed for summer. It’s an unfiltered affair, with a high wheat content contributing to a dry finish and the brewery’s signature Kiwi hops added late for some fruity aromatics. According to head brewer Shawn Sherlock, the “accent is on quality sessionability in the warm weather, coming to a tap near you in summer and, if it goes well, in bottle in the New Year, possibly Feb.”

Style: Golden Ale
Strength: 4.5%

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Murray's Brewing Hell of the North

You know you could be in for something special when the man responsible for beers such as Icon, Wild Thing, Punk Monk and Heart of Darkness says his new beer is one of the very best he’s ever brewed. When word comes back from its pre-launch tapping that it’s “the Australian Chimay Reserve”, anticipation for said beer only heightens. The beer in question is the latest – and biggest to date – Belgian style ale to be dreamt up by the Murray’s Brewing brains trust. The Hell of the North – a cycling reference, apparently – features a blend of three Trappist yeasts and an ABV that has climbed to a whopping 11.5 per cent ABV (without the use of any artificial assistance too, according to David Brailsford). For all that, it’s an elegant, delicate affair, combining sweet malt, alcohol and dark fruit aromas with a complex sweet then dry flavour that transforms as it warms. Be warned: it’s a one batch, keg only release (and the first kegs went out a week or so before we did this listing so some may have gone…).

Available:

Rubber Duckie Taphouse
The Local Taphouse Darlo
Grain Store
Warners at the Bay
Murray’s
The Alehouse Project
The Park Hotel

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Strength: 11.5%

Murra_s-hell-of-the-north_bottle

Murray's Angry Man Brown Ale

When we carried out last month’s brown ale Blind Tasting, more than one panelist commented that it was a shame Murray’s Angry Man wasn’t there as this year’s release wasn’t out. Turns out, a few of us rather like it. And so, it transpires, does its brewer, Shawn Sherlock. When we asked him what the favourites were from all those he brews / has brewed at last week’s Bicep launch, this US style Brown Ale (but with Murray’s signature Kiwi hops) warranted an “I have a real soft spot for it”, even if it was kept from his all time top three by some other classics. And now it’s back for another short run in 640ml bottles. As befitting its Angry Man moniker, it doesn’t hold back, whether on the hop or malt front, combining punchy, fruity hop aromas up front with rich chocolate, nut and caramel flavours and a solid bitterness to wrap it all up.

Available:

Rubber Duckie Taphouse
Murray’s (over the bar or direct order)
The Australian Hotel
The Beach Club Collaroy
Beer Cartel
Oak Barrel
Robin Hood Hotel
Camperdown Cellars
Barnys Liquor Rosebery

Style: American Brown Ale
Strength: 6.5%

Murray_s-angry-man-brown_bottle

Murray's / The Crafty Pint Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep

We’ve said plenty about this beer created in collaboration with Murray’s so won’t say much more here. What’s more, as it’s kind of our beer it would be wrong to say much about it anyway. That’s part of the reason why we’ve decided to run a little competition inviting you to review it for us in 50 words or less, with the best and most entertaining received by August 9 winning a t-shirt.

What we can say is that it’s a 10 per cent Smoked Belgio Imperial Mussel & Oyster Stout featuring heaps of Port Stephen’s oysters, blue and green-lipped mussels, peated distilling malt and a Belgian Trappist yeast. And that the early responses to have come in since it was tapped at the brewery and the Murray’s bar in Manly on July 6 include “awesome”, “the best stout I have tasted”, “masterpiece” and “beautiful”. All of which is good to know, especially for something that started out as a bit of fun for last year’s Beervana NZ.

For more on the competition head here, or for the chance to buy a t-shirt so you can wear a semi-naked, musclebound hunk with mussels and seaweed for a head on your chest, click here.

NB: At its Victorian launch, we were asked if it would be brewed again. We said: “Hopefully.” The brewer said: “No.” Goddammit!

Available:

Grain Store
Murray’s
Rubber Duckie Taphouse
Oak Barrel, Sydney
Beer Cartel
Union Hotel Newtown
Steve’s Cool Booze- Kingsford
Camperdown Cellars, Parramatta Rd & Kingston Rd
Barny’s Bottle Shop, Rosebery
Leura Cellars
Stanmore Cellars
VIC
Purvis Cellars
Purvis Beer Richmond
King and Godfrey
Slowbeer
Prince Wine & Spirits Essendon
Lily Blacks
Carwyn Cellars
Nillumbik Cellars
The Dispensary Enoteca
The Park Hotel
IGA Yarra Glen
Toff in Town
McCoppins
Doc’s Liquor, Vic

Style: Smoked Belgio Imperial Mussel & Oyster Stout
Strength: 10%

Abbb_listing_bottle

Murray's Anniversary Ale 7

Among Australia’s craft beer cognoscenti, Murray’s annual anniversary releases are one of the year’s most anticipated releases. The beers have generally followed a few common traits: big and barrel-aged for a start, with each vintage usually an evolution on the previous year. Last year’s was a 15 per cent Belgian style barleywine featuring a handful of different yeasts and made from a blend of French and American oak-aged versions. This one follows a similar line but with the addition of cherry wood smoked malt. Head Brewer Shawn Sherlock says: “Along with the use of Kiwi hops, we’ve made wood aging one of our signature styles – and Anniversary Ale is a key offering in this program. We don’t do ciders or sour beers, but a lot of time is now spent on developing a barrel aging program with plans for future releases of these beers.” As with previous year’s Anniversary Ales, this year’s beer has been treated to extensive oak barrel aging, and is packaged under cork in 750ml Champagne bottles. According to the brewery: “The blend of two different Belgian yeast strains makes for an incredibly complex ester profile. The high alcohol content makes its presence felt with warmth right across the palate, but even at this early stage of the beer’s life is not ‘hot’ or spirit like. The American oak barrels contribute further complex layers of flavour and aroma to the beer. Initially full and rich on the palate, Murray’s Anniversary Ale 7 finishes remarkably dry for a beer of this size.” Salivating much?

Available:

Murray’sonline shop and Cellar Door
Murray’s At Manly

Style: Smoked, Barrel-Aged Belgian Barleywine
Strength: 15%

Murrays_anniversary_ale_01_bottle

Murray's Smashing Pumpkin Ale (2012)

A collaboration between Murray’s brewery and kitchen this one. It starts with head chef Adam Ritchie and his kitchen team peeling and dry roasting 60 kilograms of pumpkin before selecting the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice that also goes into the beer. At that point brewers Shawn Sherlock and Ian Watson take over to create “pumpkin pie in a glass”. This is the third year that Murray’s has brewed its special spiced beer, which features British and German malts and cooked pumpkin in the mash. The latter, say Murray’s, “adds a subtle sweetness and pumpkin aroma and flavour that is enhanced by the addition of the spices.”

Available:

Annual Halloween release available on draught only

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly

Style: Pumpkin Ale
Strength: 5.2%

Murrays_pumpkin_ale_01_bottle

Murray's Big Wednesday IPA

They love their Kiwi hops at Murray’s and they know how to use them to make some great hoppy beers, such as the Icon 2IPA, a beer that was the first Aussie beer to really knock The Crafty Pint’s socks off back in the day. They’re at play again here, in the brewery’s first IPA to appear in a bottle, which fills the gap between the Angry Man Pale Ale (formerly Nirvana) and said Icon. This time around, brewer Shawn Sherlock has done away with any bittering hops (in other words, those added to the kettle at the start of the boil for the purposes of making the beer bitter rather than adding any hop flavours or aromas) and instead put them in later on so that their flavour and aroma characters come through. The result is a pale ale that’s bigger in alcohol than their Angry Man and bigger still when it comes to the hops. They’ve balanced the aggressive hop flavour with a blend of British and German malts, while the nose is a “blend of citrus and spice – almost passionfruit character” with a “relatively dry” finish.

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly
The Local Taphouse Darlo
Online via the Murray’s shop here

Style: IPA
Strength: 6.0%

Murrays_big_wednesday_ipa_01_bottle

Murray's Libertine

Murray’s brewers Shawn Sherlock and Ian Watson unveiled a range of rather extraordinary Belgian styles at a dinner this month. Of these, only the Libertine is on wider release, found on draught at Manly and good beer venues. Given the brewery has its residence at a place called Bob’s Farm, perhaps it’s fitting that they should release a farmhouse style ale. At a relatively light 5 per cent, this isn’t a heavy-hitter in the mould of so many modern farmhouse ales. It was brewed to be fairly light, crisp, dry and sessionable, aimed more towards what was commonly consumed by Belgian workers in times gone by. According to Shawn: “It’s a very dry beer which helps with drinkability but it has some really interesting, funky farmhouse ale yeast character.”

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly
The Union Hotel

Style: Belgian farmhouse ale
Strength: 5.0%

Murrays_libertine_01_bottle

Murray's Anniversary Ale 6

Is there anything the brewers at Murray’s won’t give a Belgian twist? Is there a level of alcohol content that will ever prove a step too far for them? Who knows, but it’s generally plenty of fun finding out. It’s the time of year when the NSW brewery brings out its Anniversary Ale, which in the past has tended to be a barleywine of one sort or another, occasionally with a touch of funk added. This time, they’ve given it the aforementioned Belgian twist, creating a 15% beast of a beer of which less than 1,000 750ml bottles have been produced. It contains a whopping five different yeasts and has spent time on two different types of oak, so should have enough complexity to keep even the fussiest of drinkers sniffing and sipping into the new year. You can watch head brewer Shawn Sherlock cracking a bottle in the brewery here too.

Available:

Murray’s
Or via online order from the brewery

Style: Belgian Barleywine
Strength: 15%

Murrays_anniversary_ale_01_bottle

Murray's Smashing Pumpkin Ale (2011)

A beer we first tasted at the brewery this time last year is a spice-laden Halloween special designed by the Murray’s brewers to be as close to pumpkin pie in a glass as possible. To a mix of British and German Malts are added more than 50kg of dry roasted pumpkin to the mash, adding “a subtle sweetness and pumpkin aroma and flavour that is enhanced by the spice additions”. Those spices are cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, all added late in the boil to blend with the malts. Launched for Halloween at the brewery but appearing elsewhere too.

Available:

Annual Halloween release available on draught only

Warners at the Bay
The Albion Hotel, Newcastle
Union Hotel, Newtown
The Pumphouse, Darling Harbour
The Local Taphouse Darlo
Murray’s

Style: Spiced Pumpkin Ale
Strength: 5.2%

Murrays_pumpkin_ale_01_bottle

Murray's The Natural

A beer conceived in honour of Cadel Evans' Tour de France triumph, The Natural is a tribute to French country ales, those that are typically yeast driven session strength beers with heaps of character. Using a unique and distinctive French Ale yeast, it boasts “strong earthy, country aromas” according to Murray’s with a “light acidity on the palate followed by the driest of cracking dry finishes”. Featuring a high malted and unmalted wheat content and pouring a hazy, pale straw colour, it has also been brewed for charity with all proceeds going to the Amy Gillett Foundation, which aims to reduce the incidence of injury and death casued by the interaction of cyclists and motorists. It’s only available at the Port Stephens brewery for now – or by ordering some via the post.

Available:

Murray’s

Style: French Farmhouse Ale
Strength: 5.0%

Murrays_the_natural_01_bottle

Murray's Oak-Aged Heart of Darkness

To mark the brewery’s 500th brew, Murray’s decided to put a twist on one of their most twisted beers, the big, dark, clash of styles Belgian Imperial Stout. It has spent time in American oak barrels previously used for Shiraz. According to the brewery, it’s added a “beautifully integrated oak character. The beer features classic light tannins and vanillin oak character, which accentuate the strong chocolate notes of Heart of Darkness.” It’s only available in very limited numbers from Murray’s Brewery – in person, online, or by calling (02) 4982 6411). Alternatively, you can sample it at the new Murray’s At Manly. EDIT: Now available more widely in limited numbers. We sampled it side by side with the straight HoD and it doesn’t just add the characters mentioned above, but smoothes out the original, making for a softer, warmer experience (and we don’t mean alcohol warmth). Imagine enjoying a glass of top notch Port and a Havana cigar in the comfort of an all-enveloping old leather armchair by a roaring fire – but in beer form.

Available:

Murray’s
Slowbeer
Purvis Beer Richmond

Style: Belgio Imperial Stout
Strength: 9.6%

Murrays_heart_of_darkness_01_bottle

Murray's Vesuvius

When word first came through that Murray’s was producing a “premium lager”, shock spread through Crafty Towers. Surely just because they’ve opened a new venue in Sydney doesn’t mean they have to knock out a 5% Eurolager to appease the masses! Isn’t that everything that the brewery rails against? We needn’t have worried… “It’s a piss take on the concept of a premium lager,” says brewer Shawn Sherlock. “It was a standing joke that we’d never brew one and obviously we never have.” Instead Vesuvius is a 7.1% pilsner, which Shawn won’t describe as Imperial (has to be over 10% for that apparently), but is still big. It’s made with all German malt and a slightly different blend of his beloved Kiwi hops “to keep the aroma interesting”. It feels and tastes like a normal pilsner, he says “but with a more aggressive bitterness”. That said, he says it’s elegant for a beer of its size and is one of two being launched at the two Murray’s venues for the long weekend.

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly
The Local Taphouse Darlo
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
Beer DeLuxe

Style: Pilsnerq
Strength: 7.1%

Murrays_vesuvius_01_bottle

Murray's Shawn's Fault

It seems that Black IPAs or India Black Ales or CDAs or Those Black Ones That Taste Dead Hoppy are ten a penny these days. But when this beer first appeared last year, it was a rarity – if not a first for a commercial Aussie beer. So called because when brewer Shawn Sherlock first announced to Murray what he wanted to do with the beer, he admitted not everyone would like it “but those who do will love it”. “If nobody likes it, it’s Shawn’s fault,” came the reply. Given it’s back for a second appearance – this time bottled not kegged – it seems he got away with it. The beer shares some qualities with the brewery’s Wild Thing and Heart of Darkness in that there’s loads of hops (as high a level as the Icon 2IPA) and some roasty character in there too, although with the latter held in check far more than the other two beers. The result is “big hop flavour and aroma” with “strong dark chocolate, almost coffee-like flavours”.

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly
Carwyn Cellars
Slowbeer
Purvis Beer

Style: India Black Ale
Strength: 7.5%

Murrays_shawns_fault_01_bottle

Murray's Spartacus (bottled)

On the day they open their new venture in Manly, Murray’s is also unleashing two of its biggest releases from 2010 in bottled form. One is Spartacus, their 100 IBU Imperial IPA that registers a whopping 10%; as the label says “It kicks arse”. Although inspired by the American beers of this style, it maintains the Murray’s tradition of favouring Kiwi hops and their tropical fruit character. If memory serves Crafty right, those aromas are a little subdued in the bottle compared to the draught release, with some sweet caramel notes and a little alcohol coming through on the nose too. For a beer with such huge levels of hopping, it’s remarkable how balanced it is, with the British and German malts ensuring the bitterness is there but not overpowering in a full-flavoured addition to the Murray’s big beer range.

Available:

Murray’s

Style: Imperial IPA
Strength: 10%
Bitterness: 100 IBU

Murrays_spartacus_imperial_ipa_01_bottle

Murray's Heart of Darkness

There have been plenty of intriguing beers out of the Murray’s stable in recent times, but perhaps none as wacky as this. The beer inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel about the darkness of the human condition combines a Belgian yeast with heaps of chocolate malt and dark sugar in a beastly Imperial Stout. It’s an intriguing affair, one in which two vastly different and powerful elements somehow come together without one overpowering the other. Both on the nose and in the mouth the fruity esters and spicy notes of the yeast are very much present, yet so are the ballsy malt flavours. It’s a thick, syrupy affair that pours as near to black as makes no difference with a deep tan head, blood red hints and all manner of dark fruits, molasses, high percentage couverture and some roasty flavours in the mix, creating a beer as twisted as Conrad’s book.

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly

Style: Belgian Imperial Stout
Strength: 9.4%

Murrays_heart_of_darkness_01_bottle

Murray's Easter Ale

Never ones to hold back when there’s an excuse to try out something new in their tanks, Murray’s have brought out an Easter Ale in time for the holidays. A spiced ale, making it something of a distant cousin of the Pumpkin Ale released by the brewery for Halloween, it’s a seriously limited released. Described by Murray’s as “an Easter spiced beer to celebrate the season” it boasts “strong cinnamon and nutmeg spice aromas blended with bready British malts”. Sound familiar? Well, it takes inspiration from hot cross buns and is topped off with a late addition of raisins to enhance the sweet and savoury feel – and allow them to use the terrible pun “Raisin' the bar” on the label! In short, brewer Shawn says: “It’s a bit of fun and smells like a hot cross bun.”

Available:

Annual Easter release, available in draught only

Murray’s
Murray’s at Manly

Style: Spiced Ale

Murrays_easter_ale_01_bottle

Murray's Retro Rocket

Now here’s a beer that’s got Crafty intrigued. Billed as Australia’s smallest IPA, it’s a 2.8% beer that somehow packs in a lot of flavour – including pretty fierce bitterness, according to brewer Shawn Sherlock when we caught up with him last month for an interview we’ll be running on the site soon. According to Murray’s, it’s brewed with British malts, “carries a big, almost over the top hop flavour and aroma” and is coppery red in colour. Perfect with tandoori chicken or a tikka masala or rogan josh curry too, apparently. Given the success of last year’s Punch & Judy, which crammed plenty of malt flavours and hop aromas into a sub-4% beer, hopes were high for the Rocket and, having tasted it, we can say it justifies the hype. Quite how Shawn Sherlock achieved so much body, colour and hop character into a beer of this size is something of a marvel.

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly
The Local Taphouse Darlo
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
Beer DeLuxe
Warners at the Bay

Style: Light IPA(!)
Strength: 2.8%

Murrays_retro_rocket_01_bottle

Murray's Angry Man Brown Ale

Given his regular musings online, one wonders if this is a beer based on Murray himself. Either way, when we tasted last year’s batch, it found favour with Crafty. Big Brown Ales are a treat if done well (think Baird’s from Japan) with everything – hops and malt characters – cranked right up for a palate-coating beer journey in every mouthful. We’re yet to taste this year’s version, which is the first time the Angry Man has ever been bottled as well as kegged, but are told it’s “bitter up front and smooth at the finish” with a “strong hop flavour and aroma and a little bit chocolatey.” It pours a “beautiful dark ruby red when held up to the light, but solid dark brown in the shade” too, apparently. The brewers recommend quaffing one alongside a steak.

Available:

Murray’s
Slowbeer
Penny Blue
Newcastle: BYO on Beaumont (Hamilton), Bottle O Lambton, Bottle O Wickham, Cellarbrations Adamstown, Delany Hotel, Warners At The Bay
Sydney: Coogee Cafe After Dark, Yulli’s, Shady Pines, Pumphouse Hotel, Cornerhouse Bar, Sutherland Fine Wines, Platinum Liqur- Bellevue Hill/ Nth Strathfield, Cammeray Cellars
Blackhearts & Sparrows

Style: American Brown Ale
Strength: 6.5%

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Murray's Imperious

A massive beer to launch a massive new range from Murray’s, the Imperious is to Belgian beers what the Wild Thing is to stouts. This experimental Imperial Belgian Blond is the highest ABV beer Murray’s has brewed to date. It contains a blend of British and German malts, fresh New Zealand-grown hops, and a classic Belgian yeast strain. This gives it a classic Belgian yeast profile – strong esters and light phenolics – along with a tropical hop character (sweet mouthfilling apricot/stonefruit-like flavours at the front of the palate). And basically lots of both, colliding with full force all over your palate. Try it with a caramelised stonefruit dessert.

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly
Beer DeLuxe
The Local Taphouse St Kilda

Style: Imperial Belgian Blond
Strength: 11%

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Murray's Punk Monk

Punk by name, yet refined by nature, this seasonal from Murray’s might sport a ravishing pink label but inside it’s all rather elegant. For those who’ve gorged on some of the brewery’s big, bold expressions of intent in recent months, it’s a chance to give your palate a different sort of work out, one in which it is caressed by what brewer Shawn Sherlock claims is a hybrid of a few Belgian styles, influenced by Saisons and Belgian Blond Ales with a nod to Belgian Trippels. The classic estery and lightly spiced Belgian yeast character is there, but with a lighter, drier finish than one would expect of such a high ABV beer, complimented by a hint of spice from hops.

Available:

Murray’s
Murray’s At Manly
Beer DeLuxe

Style: Belgian hybrid
Strength: 7.5%

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Murray's Anniversary Ale 5

Usual practice at Crafty Manor when it comes to the Anniversary Ales from Murray’s is to buy a couple and hold onto them for a later date to allow them to age, only to get scared of ever opening them as once they’re gone, they’re gone. Thankfully, a special occasion recently saw bottles of 3, 4 and 5 opened one after the other. Crafty felt the love particularly for 3, general consensus elsewhere favoured 4, while 5 – with the addition of darker chocolate malts and roasted barley to the old recipe – was noticeably sharper up front, but soon settled into a familiarly warm, rich and soothing multi-layered experience. “Of what sort?” we hear you cry. Well, the Anniversary Ales are oak-aged wheat and barleywines, with this one also boasting a bigger hop profile – a new blend of Green Bullet, Pacifica, Motueka and NZ Cascade – that comes through on the nose and in the bitterness. It’s designed to stick around for up to ten years, so quite why Crafty’s cracked one already……

Available:

Murray’s
Slowbeer
Beer DeLuxe

Style: Wheat and Barleywine
Strength: 10%

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