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!â?