8 Wired – The Big Smoke

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As a lifetime non-smoker the idea of a smoked beer isn’t overly appealing.  However as a lover of beer, I can’t help but see the appeal of almost any beer style.  I have limited experiences with smoked beers – there have been a couple, such as the Coal Harbour Smoke & Mirrors, and my takeaway has been that they are interesting but not something I’d reach for very often.  8 Wired tends to have a bit of a unique twist on any style they produce so I felt it was definitely worth a re-visit by grabbing a bottle of The Big Smoke, a smoked porter than weighs in at 6.2%.

So, 8 Wired is from New Zealand and isn’t terribly hard to find around Vancouver – all of the noteworthy private stores tend to stock their stuff.  My first experience with 8 Wired brews was their trendily named iStout, which I loved.  They also produce a noteworthy IPA and saison, among other things.   They tend to run just north of $10 for a 500mL bottle, which isn’t cheap but for the occasional splurge they are worth it.

This beer pours a blackish brown, like, well, tobacco.  It smells of barbequed dark fruits, if that makes sense.  There is definitely some chocolate sweetness in there, as well.  Maybe a little black licorice.  The smoke notes seem to be accompanied by a prickly earthiness that I’d wager is the hops (one thing I’ve learned about 8 Wired is they use a healthy dose of hops in all their brews – which is a very good thing I feel).

The taste is strongly smoked, not quite to the extent that Smoke & Mirrors was but there is still a significant sense of being cigar-infused.   The smoke also comes across as charred, dry wood but only subtly.  Those chocolate notes I smelled aren’t apparent anymore, but the smoke isn’t over the top despite being front and center.  There is a creamy malt texture as well with some caramel.

I don’t think I’d buy this again but only because I’m not a big smoke-guy.  The execution is very palatable and I would imagine for a cigar lover, this would probably hit home really well – or cross some wires, at least.

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8Wired Saison Sauvin

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Time for another saison.  I was intending to have last week be ‘saison week’ but I managed to completely miss that mark.  Oh well, just means things are better spread about anyway.  This is what I was expecting to be the most exciting saison of those I had on hand, 8Wired’s ‘Saison Sauvin’ – and likely also the most unconventional.  As per the bottle, 8Wired’s saison uses the traditional Belgian yeasts (which provide the ‘barnyard’ Belgian quality) but double the malt (increasing the ABV) and using Nelson Sauvin hops.  This is a type of hops native to New Zealand and gets its name from the white wine fruitiness it imparts.  It’s also known for having big flavour.

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The beer pours a rich orange as shown.  The smell reminds me of a Belgian sour – there is a funky tartness, acidity, but some hops floral notes as well.  Smells slightly of earth as well.  The first few sips I felt like I was drinking a fairly athletic IPA – the hops took control of the palate, delivering sharp floral and fruit notes with an earthy acidity.  The hops were drying and bitter and very excellent, but almost masked the saison characteristics.  A lot of the tart and sharp flavour was coming across as orange peel.  Once the glass warmed up some more the tart white wine notes of the saison yeasts came through stronger and the hops retracted to a more balanced level.

This was an extremely enjoyable beer as I’ve grown used to expecting from 8Wired, but not at all like other saison experiences I’ve had.  If one were not a fan of IPA’s but loved saisons, I would not recommend this beer.  But for the IPA fan who is less sure about saisons (which is a more common point of view for the serious beer drinker, for sure) I would highly recommend this as a saison you’re likely to love.

Like other 8Wired offerings, it’s not cheap here in BC.  This was $10.55 for a 500mL bottle.  It comes in at 7% ABV and without an IBU claim on the bottle but from my tastebuds I would say it would land in the 50-60 range.

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8Wired Hopwired IPA

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This is my second 8Wired brew, first being the very impressive iStout.  The iStout was so good that I decided to try a couple other of their brews, despite the cost of entry – each of the 500mL bottles were $10.55, regardless of style.  For an imperial stout this is not an unusual price, but for an IPA it is pretty steep.  Also helping the purchase was high regard given to the beer by any and all liquor store employees I made contact with.

8Wired, as you can see in the photo, is from New Zealand.  This is significant with this IPA as the hops used are all New Zealand native hops, unique to the island.  So what you get is a similar recipe to what you’d find in a strong IPA around here but with a slightly different flavour.

First off, the smell.  It’s fantastic, it has that strong floral scent with a strong citrus backbone.  It’s evident already that this is likely to be a good experience.  The taste is, well, probably influenced from reading the label on the bottle but I safe to say they know the taste of their beer.  There is grapefruit and other tropical fruit going on for sure.  It’s still quite floral at this point.  None of the pine that you often get with big BC IPA’s.  Maybe a little tree bark but there isn’t a lot of earthiness going on.  It’s very fresh tasting.

This is a fairly big IPA (and I mean that both in terms of ABV% and IBU) but not over the top – it’s 7.3% with an IBU of 70.   It really was a tasty IPA but I don’t see myself buying it very often at all – maybe once a year – because while good, it’s still hard to justify the price when I can have a Fat Tug for substantially less money that is exceptional in its own right.

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8Wired ‘iStout’ – Imperial Stout

While the name appears to be a play on Apple product names, there’s no mention of such in the fine print.  It does exhibit a couple Apple type qualities though – it is expensive (over $10 for this 500mL bottle), the packaging is pretty slick with a meticulously engineered texture to the label, and the product is highly refined.   I think this is where the comparison stops, though.

I was encouraged to buy this beer (which I had previously not heard of) by the fine folks at Legacy Liquor after casually mentioning I like stouts.  This was described as “one of the best stouts in the world.”  It is brewed in New Zealand and comes in at 10% ABV.  It is considered to be a bit of a unique take on the veritable Russian Imperial Stout.

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The iStout pours a thick, intense black.  The head is medium brown and doesn’t stick around – this isn’t a very carbonated beer.  The body is as thick as it looks from the pour, and the flavour is plentiful and complex.  Roasted coffee and chocolate are both present, along with a strong molasses flavour.  It is slightly sweet with an equally impressive hops presence that balances it fantastically.  The finish is clean and comes straight down the middle – not too sweet and not too bitter.  No doubt this is one of the best, if not the best stout I’ve ever had.

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I have since added another to my cellar, along with a couple other 8Wired brews to try in the near future.  I have a very good feeling about this particular brewery.