Starting out as the brewery that gave the Pub With No Beer its beer, the Murray's operation moved to Port Stephens, a short drive up the coast from Newcastle, 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, the ever-expanding brewery is housed in a former wine storage shed next to rows of vines just up the hill from a modern bar, restaurant and function room.
The original brew system was 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 It had, however, become incapable of meeting demand alone so has been replaced by a rather larger and more contemporary beast, with the old trooper now in operation at Hope Brewhouse in the Hunter.
With a fondness for pushing the bounds of brewing and mixing and matching styles, they've long been known for producing full-flavoured beers at every point in the spectrum, from lower alcohol examples like Punch & Judy and Retro Rocket to the big and bold Wild Thing and Spartacus – beers that were ahead of their time in the context of the Australian beer market. More recently, they've put out IPAs of all shapes and sizes, taken Wild Thing in all manner of directions and continued to fire out the weird and wonderful as well as adding more sessionable beers – a lager and XPA, for example – to the core range.
The ongoing expansion of the brewhouse has been in keeping with Murray's aim of seeing good craft beer all along the East Coast; every nook and cranny of the shed has steadily been filled with beer and the gear with which to make it, including the wooden barrels used for their annual Anniversary Ale releases, which tend be anything from barley wine to a Belgian ale featuring brettanomyces.
Having gotten by in the original buildings for years, in 2017 the cellar door and restaurant underwent a major makeover and it now looks every bit the modern destination, with a huge outdoor deck where you can bask in the Port Stephens sunshine, take in the scenery of the vineyard and the bush beyond and tuck into a pizza cooked in the outdoor oven. That winning combo has made it a hugely popular place for functions and an even more attractive proposition for the myriad of concerts that have been held on the grounds almost every long weekend for years.
During the renovations they also went to the trouble of installing a small still which they use to produce their own spirits under the Gentleman Smith label; there must be few, if any, other places in the country where you can sit down with a beer, wine and spirit made on site – not to mention the myriad of sauces and spreads that get made with the beer.
In recent years Murray’s adopted the tagline of “No boring beer”, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything boring at this place.