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.