2AROMA 3/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 3/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 9/20
There’s been a lot of mergers, absorptions and buy-outs among the global macro beer brewers the last few years. Heineken bought the Murphy’s brewery from Cork, Ireland and has apparently moved production to The Netherlands. I didn’t realize this until I picked up a bottle of Murphy’s Red Ale and noticed the rear label said the beer was brewed "under supervision of Murphy’s" but quite a few hundred miles Northeast of Ireland.
Heineken is one of the worst macro lagers on the market, in my opinion, so I figured if its brewers made an Irish Red it’d at least be an improvement, since the inherent traits of the style are more enjoyable. Oh how wrong I was! Murphy’s Red Ale is one of the worst beers I’ve ever drank - smells bad, looks bad, tastes terrible and is difficult to drink. Considering who makes it I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by this.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into a nonic pint glass. It should be noted that Murphy’s Red Ale is packaged in a light brown/olive green glass which is very translucent and enables a lot of light to penetrate the beer. This was clear to me as soon as I popped the cap and a pungent, skunky odor almost seemed to burn my nostrils. I drank this beer with a friend who also noticed the scent as soon as he opened his bottle (which leads me to believe it wasn’t simply a bad bottle).
For an "Irish Red," this beer is a bit of a fraud. It’s more of a straight brown color. It’s clear and bubbly and forms a white, foamy head. I was rather disappointed in the color and found the brown shade a little off-putting.
Most American beer drinkers have encountered skunky European pale lagers and pilsners in their life. Heineken, Stella Artois, Carlsberg, Czechvar and other beers of these styles all tend to smell and taste skunky, oily, grainy and sour. Upon my first swig, I was shocked that Murphy’s Red Ale not only tasted like one of those beers, but it was actually worse!
The initial mouthfeel has a noticeably thin, watery body with a slightly creamy texture (which I actually liked). As it finishes, the aforementioned repulsive flavors make themselves known. It’s funny how a beer can actually taste skunky in addition to smelling skunky. There’s also something of a metallic and oily coating which I could best describe as sucking on a handful of wet pennies.
The only thing keeping the beer from being completely undrinkable is the fact all these flavors are relatively mild since the palate is so watery. If drank cold enough, this beer is at least tolerable, but once it begins to warm it’s fatiguing.
If a beer tastes awful, the drinkability is almost a moot point. Murphy’s Red Ale is a very crisp beer - which is something I enjoy in a pale lager, but not in an Irish Red. While the palate is indeed thin and watery the awful flavors actually make it difficult to swallow. The aftertaste is rather repulsive and lingers for a long time. One absolutely must drink this beer with spicy or salty foods to distract from the taste. At only 5% ABV it’s very light, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to drink more than serving of it anyway.
I try to approach every beer I review with an open mind and not have too many expectations, however, Murphy’s Red Ale was nowhere near what I expected. I suppose I can attribute its poor quality to the fact it’s brewed by people who probably don’t know or care what an Irish Red should be. It also gives credence to the notion that Heineken deliberates brews their beer to be skunky. Hmmm….