8 Wired Brewery takes pride in its ‘old-world’ brew with a Kiwi twist

Soren and wife
8 Wired Brewery Owner Soren Eriksen and his wife.

Mixing “old-world” brewing methods and adding a Kiwi twist has been a winning formula for Northland brewer 8 Wired Brewery. The Warkworth-based brewer won the two top gongs at the 2023 New Zealand Beer Awards: Overall Champion NZ Brewing Company and Champion New Zealand Beer for its pale sour Wild Feijoa.

The inspiration was to make something that combined the traditional brewing methods of Lambic (from Belgium) with something uniquely New Zealand.”

Owner Soren Eriksen said it was amazing to win the top two awards. “We have won champion brewery in the past (2011), but…the industry has exploded since then, and the competition is much stronger now than it was. Winning obviously motivates the team, and this is a large reason to enter the awards. But we always enter the awards; it has never really been an option not to.”

The Wild Feijoa beer was a very special beer, says Soren. “We make a lot of barrel-aged beers, but this is the only one that we make every year, and this year was the 10th vintage. The inspiration was to make something that combined the traditional brewing methods of Lambic (from Belgium) with something uniquely New Zealand.”

The pale sour is aged for up to two years in wine barrels and then another year on fresh local organic feijoas. “In my mind, Feijoa is more Kiwi than Kiwifruit. It is truly a unique fruit that you very rarely see overseas.” It was not easy to find and therefore in demand.

“We only make this beer in small volumes and the shelf life is very long (10 years), so it is not really a problem to sell it. However, being a very challenging and complex beer, and more expensive than other beers, it did sell slower than most.”

“Times are definitely tough for everyone, ourselves included. The main reasons behind this are massive increases in costs of goods, excise tax and freight. Unless the government shows any interest in maintaining a boutique industry that is good for jobs and tourism, unfortunately, there will probably be more breweries to face trouble.”

Soren said in other Western countries, including Australia, small producers received an excise tax relief to help level the playing field with the large international corporations that control 90% of the market. “Unfortunately, neither the previous nor the incoming government seem to have any interest in following the rest of the world.”

He said something that set them apart from other breweries was the barrel aging of beer. “We have a dedicated location for this, with a tap room, in Matakana where we make a range of different aged beers, mostly sour beers, in the lambic tradition.”

A qualified biochemist, Soren discovered a passion for homebrewing back in the 2000s. Eventually, the hobby grew into something bigger, and he and his wife decided to take the punt and start their own brewery. “Back then, the market was very different, and it was a good time to enter.”

“It was also easy because we didn’t start with our own physical brewery but rented space at Renaissance Brewing in Blenheim, where I also worked as a brewer at the time. When it came to the time to build our own brewery, we decided to move north as we didn’t have any family in the South Island.”

The company has two locations, with the production brewery located at Warkworth that brews, packages and distributes, and Barrel works in Matakana where the wooden barrels with aging beer are stored. There is a tap room at Matakana open to the public with 20 beers on tap and an in-house whisky and local wines and ciders.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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