March 26th, 2013 by Crafty Pint
People have tried various means of educating people about beer. You’ll find tasting notes on the bars of breweries, menus with suggested food and beer pairings, posters outlining the various beer families, tasting wheels and labels with images of hops and malts to indicate what to expect. There are multiple beer appreciation and educational courses taking place across the country at any one time, some for ladies only, and no festival worth its salt in Oz these days comes without some form of stage designed to spruik the ins and outs of the brewing process or how to pair your favourite beer with cheese.
Up until now, however, there has been a dearth of methods that result in the residents of Crafty Towers feeling like eight-year-olds. Thankfully, the situation has been resolved as today sees the launch of a new Trumps-like card game from Murrayâs.
Head to their brewery at Port Stephens or Murrayâs At Manly and you’ll find the beers accompanied by colourful cards that give each one a score for ABV, bitterness, colour, malt and yeast, as well as suggestions as to what foods they pair with and a price indicator. The idea is that they’re a simple way for newcomers to the beers to know what to expect – or a means by which those wanting to relive their youth can head down Memory Lane.
“The bottom line for us is that it’s an educational tool,” says brewery founder Murray Howe. “What I want it to do is teach people in a fun way a little bit more about craft beer. One of the biggest challenges in venues is having knowledgeable bar people on your team.
“We looked at this and thought, ‘How can we put more information in the hands of your average punter? The Trump game came up. There’s a group of diverse people within Murray’s as you can see from the brand itself. We think outside the square quite a bit and wanted to get away from the boring beer list, which can be gobbledygook to a lot of people.
“I’ve already got the beer geeks covered. They know who we are and we engage with them already. But the reason we went to Manly was to introduce craft beer to your average Joe and the cards will help us to convey the breadth of what craft beer can be – and do it in a not too serious manner.”
The cards have been designed by long term design collaborator Tim Forrest and feature the beer’s label, a related (tangentially at least) image and a description of the beer. They’ve been created for all Murray’s beers, including the Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep. This is the beer The Crafty Pint conceived and brewed in a tiny batch with the brewery to enter in a Media Brew competition at New Zealand’s Beervana festival last year.
There it took top spot with the competition’s first ever perfect score. And you know what its appearance on a card means? The beer – a Smoked Imperial Belgian Mussel and Oyster Stout – will be brewed on a commercial scale for this winter!
As for the game itself, it appears in venues from today, with the cards having been revealed one by one on Facebook over the past few days. There will be some limited edition games available in metal cases, while there are plans to release it online too. Murray believes some people will play the game, but above all hopes they help make head brewer Shawn Sherlock’s beers less scary to craft beer newcomers.
“I’m not being funny or contrite, but if you walk into Murray’s at Manly today there’s pretty much the finest tap list in Australia,” says Murray. “But it’s confronting for your average person and for someone behind the bar who is not a big geek. The cards will be put down on the table. The guys will say this is what we have on tap today. Some people will play the game, other people will just look through to see what’s on tap.
“I see it in venues that I’ve been to around the world where the staff aren’t on top of everything. Particularly in bigger venues with a lot of taps. It’s very difficult to get someone with great customer service who knows the difference between Spartacus and Punk Monk. This makes it easier for us and people visiting.
“People will steal the cards but I’ve gone ahead with this in the full knowledge that they will be knocked off â I’d knock it off! It just shows that they’re desirable – and I’d rather that than people taking my glasswareâ¦”
The cards promise to be as eye-catching as Shawn’s beers, as is the retro-futuristic surf shack that is the Manly venue and as are the various labels and flyers produced by Murray’s over the years.
“I’ve had two designers since the start, both of them close friends,” says Murray. “From day one I’ve always spent money where most people wouldn’t spend it. Great design was one of those things. I invested a lot of money and effort and tears trying to tell the story of Murray’s and design is one element. I’ve been fortunate to have the money to do that as many small breweries haven’t, but when we are trying to compete with so many different beers in the world, it’s important to stand out.”
They’ll be looking to compete on an even wider scale soon with a new brewery being installed right now.
“[That’s] the focus for us this year,” says Murray. “The new brewery means that we’ll be able to produce more of the specialty stuff.
“We’re not trying to build a company on one beer. We know that the way we’re doing it is the hard way but also the fun way. I want to be sending kegs of Spartacus to Melbourne in large amounts.”