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May 24, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Contract the 8 Wired Virus

Contract brewing is a new phenomenon in the craft beer world. Essentially, it is when a brewing company chooses to make its beer using an existing brewery’s equipment. The Wellington-based Yeastie Boys were the first New Zealanders to openly do this, and since then it’s taken off as an easier way for home brewers to get their beer on the market.

The latest contract brewers are 8 Wired Brewing, the brainchild of Dane Søren Eriksen. Last week 8 Wired launched three new beers, and thanks to my boss at Hashigo Zake, I got to help put those beers on the shelves.

8 Wired is brewed at Renaissance Brewery in Blenheim—where I volunteered my time for a week. For the first few days we were packaging the three latest beers in the fast-growing 8 Wired range.

The first of which was The Big Smoke (6.2%), a smoked porter. This is a rare style of beer in New Zealand—I’m not aware of any other commercial example—which perfectly showcases 8 Wired’s desire to push the boundaries.

Bottling 2000 litres of beer can be thirsty work. So naturally, I am now very familiar with this beer. Don’t be afraid of the smoke part of this beer, because Søren has kept the smokiness relatively subtle. The Big Smoke is a well-made, robust porter, with great coffee and cocoa roast malt characteristics, while the beechwood smoked malt shows slightly in the aroma and finish.

The subtle smoke in The Big Smoke was a surprise to me, because 8 Wired beers are usually about huge flavours. The next beer we bottled reaffirmed this—iStout Imperial Stout (10.5%). If you think Guinness is ‘like a meal’, then iStout is a whole restaurant. Imperial stouts were originally intended for export to Russia, hence the huge warming flavours. A very positive effect of the big alcohol and flavour is that the beer will develop in the bottle for years to come. It obviously tastes quite young at the moment, with intense vanilla and coffee flavours assaulting the palate, followed by big bitterness. With time these flavours will integrate nicely.

The very last beer we packaged only went into kegs—meaning Red Dwarf Amber Ale (5.5%) will only be seen on tap. Luckily we’re in Wellington, and there’s no shortage of guest taps for the Red Dwarf to call home. Being an amber ale, it has a stunning red/amber colour. It throws a fresh earthy New Zealand hop aroma, and in the mouth it is full-bodied with big malty caramel flavours and a bitterness which builds with each sip.

Søren is currently on his honeymoon with his new bride Monique, so don’t expect any new 8 Wired releases in the next month, but these three will definitely tide you over until he’s back with inspiration from his world travels.

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please contact me at


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  1. Stu as "Stu" says:

    Just knocked off a Big Smoke with some outstanding beetroot soup… I suppose it should have been iStout.

    Perhaps, contrary to the theory in your last article, contract brewing is “the next big thing”?

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