Friday, November 5, 2010

Beer - Murray's Icon 2IPA

It has been very exciting to finally have local retail access to the bottled range of awesome craft beers from Murray's Craft Brewing Co in NSW.

Anyone who is passionate about Australian craft beer will be aware of the general high regard for Murray's Brewing and their ability to provide some truly unique and creative products. Their brewing philosophy is to create unconventional, full flavoured, big aroma beers. Therefore, the majority of their beers are not true to style, but rather hybrids or styles-with-a-twist.

With a very active online presence, via their website, blog and Twitter, it has actually been somewhat difficult to sit here, down in Melbourne, and follow all the delicious and enticing news and activity emanating from Murray's Brewing, whilst unable to actually drink their beers.

Other than ordering online direct from the brewer, my best chance to try the Murray's beers had usually been (generally expensively) on tap at Beer DeLuxe.

Thankfully, through a distribution deal with Slowbeer, Murray's bottle beers should now be a fairly common sight throughout Melbourne's quality bottleshops . Awesome!

Last night I drank the Icon 2IPA, an American Double India Pale Ale that is regularly praised as one of Australia's best IPAs.

Pouring from the 300ml bottle into a stem glass, the Icon 2IPA a provides clear yet deep amber appearance, with an inch or so thick frothy off-white head (common on many Murray's beers) that leaves a good amount of lacing. A significant amount of sediments was visible in the glass, which soon settles to the bottom.

The aroma is big and enjoyable, dominated by the hops, full of citrus, lemon, maybe a hit of pineapple (or just pine), and soft malt as well as some spice.

I found the taste to be fairly soft at first, but then a second later it hits you with a quite intense wave of hops, followed by passionfruit and peppery characteristics. But it's not all hops! Filling out this beer there is a smoothness and slight sweetness added by the malt. The complexity of this brew is top shelf, providing plenty to explore and pick out.

In the mouth this beer is good! Yum!

It is warming but very well balanced, with the 7.5% abv present hardly noticeable in the mouth. The depth and full body of the Icon 2IPA is also excellent. The carbonation is high, which is something I find fairly common across the Murray's Brewing range.

Finally, the finish is long and bitter, in a very well rounded way.

Yes, to me the Icon 2IPA is a fantastic beer that is not over the top. Certainly brewed for the hop heads, but still very drinkable, so I definitely encourage all beer drinkers to try it out.

For those who tried the excellent Murray's "Spartacus" Imperial IPA, the Icon 2IPA is like a mellow version of Spartacus, but deeper and without the in-your-face alcohol.

So...after having their beers on my "beer journey wish list" for so long, here is a quick recap of the Murray's brews that I have now enjoyed:
  • "Whale Ale" American Wheat Ale - in bottle and tap on various occasions - I as introduced to this at the BeermenTV Beer Breakfast and it had an instant positive impact on me for flavour and drinkability, especially at 10am in the morning!
  • "Shawn's Fault" Black IPA - on tap at Beer DeLuxe - probably my favourite Murray's beer, because it was so enjoyably unique, wrong and complex, with a deep hoppy blast counteracted by dark malts. It was both a challenge and joy to drink.
  • Murray's Anniversary Ale 4 - from bottle at Slowbeer tasting event - an English style barley wine aged in Hunter Valley Shiraz barrels that is luscious and fruity with hints of the Shiraz, very nice.
  • "Heart of Darkness" Belgian Imperial Stout - on tap at Beer DeLuxe - OH GOODNESS YES! MORE PLEASE! This amazing chocolate driven Imperial Stout has a sweet rum twist that makes for perfect drinking on a wet and cold Winter's day in Melbourne.
  • "Angry Man" American brown ale - on tap at Beer Deluxe - a delightful malty brown ale with just a hint of "angry" as different bits and pieces of flavour pop up and spike you.
  • "Spartacus" Imperial IPA - on tap at Beer DeLuxe - a really in your face, massive Imperial IPA, packed full of punchy hops, yet so very drinkable. One will knock you out, but you will want two!
  • Grand Cru Tripel - in bottle from Slowbeer - a beautifully smooth and classy triple without being too heavy.
  • "Wild Thing" Imperial Stout - in bottle from Slowbeer - just a fantastic Imperial Stout that is big and bold with an quality choc-coffee hit.
  • Pumpkin Ale - on tap at Biero Bar (last weekend for Halloween!) - it was my first ever taste of a Pumpkin Ale, so I do not have any point of comparison for it, but it was definitely a quality brew with an interesting spicy twist.
  • Murray's Sassy Belgian Blond and Nirvana Pale Ale - in bottle from Dan Murphys - I need to revisit these two beers from the regular Murray's range, because it has been too long to recall exactly what I thought of them, after randomly selecting and drinking them early on in my craft beer journey.
The only two beers from this brewer which I have not given two very big thumbs up to have been:
  • "Dark Knight" porter - on tap at Biero Bar - I found to be just a bit plain and underwhelming, lacking body and the signature Murray's depth and complexity. I guess with a name like "Dark Knight" was was anticipating a more robust ale with a fuller body.
  • "Punch & Judy's" English Bitter - (both in the bottle from Slowbeer and on tap at The Local Taphouse) - many fellow beer drinkers have been talking up this 3.9% abv beer recently. And yes, in comparison to any other local low-alcohol beer it is fantastic! However, I still found it somewhat short, lacking the flavour hit or character that I was expecting. The problem probably lies in a (possibly unfair) comparison to the amazing Mikeller Drink'in The Sun, a 3.9% abv Wheat Ale, which I also drank recently at Biero Bar. The Drink'in The Sun was a wonderful shock of taste, depth and refreshing enjoyment from a low-alcohol beer, which you would normally expect to be very short on complexity or depth, but this was a good as any full strength beer!
I must say, both these beers were far from bad! No, they were just less than I expected from the, usually rich, flavoursome and well balanced range coming out of Murray's Brewing. They are still excellent beers to drink and a considerably better choice than anything breweb by a macro brewery!

As an added treat for Melbourne craft beer fans (along with the arrival of Murray's beers onto the retails shelves), Murray's Head Brewer, Shawn Sherlock, was recently in town for The Local Taphouse Ale Stars.

Due to life logistics (i.e. time and money...and stuff) I was unable to make it on the night...but after reading about the event through the blog posts of Beer Blokes and Eat Drink Stagger...I am somewhat regretting the missed opportunity and will definitely have to try harder in future to be a part of such experiences.

As I am learning more and more lately, such insight provide through direct interaction with the brewers is not only invaluable but can take your appreciation for good beer to a whole new level.

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