A nomadic former-homebrewer turned professional, Søren Eriksen has made New Zealand his home for the last decade, bringing his skill and expertise to the fore at 8 Wired’s permanent residence in the town of Warkworth.
8 Wired are among the country’s most successful craft breweries, and are imported into the UK through the New Zealand Beer Collective. The brewery is probably best known over in Blighty for its Hippy Berliner, a refreshing, light, hoppy, kettle sour, but it is it’s exceptional barrel aged beers which rightly earn Søren plaudits at home and further afield.
He lays claim to having the largest barrel collection in the southern hemisphere, with some 250+ vessels squeezed into 8 Wired’s small warehouse home. It is here that beers such as Fistful of Cherries - a sour ale brewed with Marlborough Cherries and aged in wine barrels, and Lokomotiv Merlot - a imperial stout aged in Hawkes Bay Merlot barrels - mature and take shape under Søren’s watchful eye.
Softly spoken and instantly welcoming, and having developed something of a Kiwi sense of humour, Søren is an easy person to like. While visiting the brewery last month, I asked a few short questions to see what makes him, and New Zealand beer, tick.
”I was a homebrewer and over time the hobby went out of control. Eventually me and my wife decided that it would probably be more fun to own a brewery than working for the man for the rest of our lives.
“The ‘no 8 Wire’ is a piece of fencing wire that the kiwi farmers historically have used to fix everything that broke down on the farm. Because New Zealand is so far away, it was often impossible to get spare parts and they had to make do with what they had, which was usually a piece of number 8 wire. Over the years, it has become a symbol of the kiwi ingenuity and fixing/building everything from nothing.
“When naming the brewery we felt this fitted in really well with us. We didn’t have the means to start a ‘real’ brewery so we made do with what we had and contract brewed until we could build our own. Furthermore we have always tried to be adventurous and apply a lot of ingenuity in our recipes and brewing methods.
“We don't have an official ethos but we're always striving to make the beers better and keep developing the creative side of our business.”
“The community is the best thing about the scene for sure. We're a small industry in a small country and the community is really tight. Almost everyone gets along and will happily help out the next brewer if needed.”
“A couple of years ago I would have said the next big trend would be light lagers and sours. Both of these have grown but I wouldn't say they have become huge trends as such. IPAs in all it's shapes and forms will probably continue to dominate for year to come. Personally I would like to see more dark beer in the market but these are becoming harder and harder to sell here.”
“We’re going to be focusing on more barrel aged sours, more variations of Hippy Berliner and more cans. We're close to buying a new canning line, so will be putting this to good use.”