8 Wired Brewing Company – ReWired Unchained

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The good old brown ale. It’s a deeply unfashionable style these days, it seems. It’s a style that doesn’t bring with it a swathe of bitter citrus fruit-flavoured hops, nor does it drown with the deep toffee-and-boozy fruit flavours of a strong dark ale. It’s not sparkling and golden, nor black and enigmatic.

No, brown ale is just a plain old brown. With a mild, slightly sweet nutty based and a little bit of fresh and fruity hoppiness. Easy drinking; not knocking any socks off, but delightful to sit with in the sunshine or at a table at the local.

But the brown ale is a style it’s near impossible to find on the shelves or on the taps of Wellington, New Zealand’s “craft beer capital.” Which is a shame, because I’d love to see more of it. Which would require more of it to be brewed, I guess.

Nonetheless, 8 Wired’s ‘ReWired’ brown ale has been a relatively frequent visitor to this side of Cook Straight, and while it may not be a ‘traditional’ brown ale, whatever that means, it’s certainly one of my favourite beers. A layer of roasted malty flavours underlie a robust hop flavour, a very soothing and fulfilling easy-to-drink ale, that doesn’t kill your taste buds or make you feel like weighed down like some dark ales can.

More recently, 8 Wired’s Søren Eriksen has been playing with the ReWired, producing what is called the ‘ReWired Unchained’. I first encountered this at Beervana ’14, and was quite blown away by the surprising range of flavours that were produced by barrel ageing this brown ale with a dose of Brettanomyces.

Now, it would be tempting to say that infecting the ReWired with Brett has made this ale funkier than a pair of brown flared cords, but that wouldn’t be true. Because, perhaps surprisingly, the combination ageing and infection has taken the beer not towards the funk and tartness of a saison or farmhouse style, but somewhere quite different.

Back at Beervana in August, I noted that the beer had developed a full flavour of caramel sharpened with aromas of cut grass and summer fruit. I was fortunate to find again late last month on tap in Golding’s Free Dive, and with a good measure in a tulip-shaped glass I was really able to embrace the full and complex flavours that the ReWired Unchained unleashed.

The initial aroma was of a cool, dry wash of a soft red wine washing over the nose and tongue, with a little hint of salt-and-vinegar lurking around the edges, speaking of the tartness the Brett was bringing to the mix.

In the mouth the red wine flavours came through even stronger; long, lingering, sliding sweetly down, leaving a taste of fruity plum and bubble gum flavours. Then, as the stronger tart wine-like flavours faded, the mouth was left with a residual warm sweetness, soft and fruity, resolving eventually to a taste I swear resembled a lemon sorbet.

Remarkable.

I enjoyed this complex and fascinating ale while perched at the Golding’s after a trip back from Christchurch, with a couple of travel bags at my feet and a bowl of pork crackling nearby. Ah, pork crackling; basically concentrated fat and salt. Not something you want to snack on too often, but when accompanied by a glass of something nice and refreshing, it’s one of the most life-affirming snacks I know. Very little is wrong with the world when you can relax with a good beer and a bowl of salted and double-cooked pig fat.

The salty, lip-smacking snack worked wonders with the ReWired Unchained. The wine-and-vinegar flavours of the beer cut through the fat-and-salt perfectly, and the mouthfeel as the sweet finish to the beer meet with the next morsel of pig skin was a sheer delight. When I ordered the snack I remarked that I really should’ve got the pork crackling with an IPA rather than the ReWired Unchained, but I was glad to be proved wrong.

Unlooked for, it became a taste combination delight. The beer stood up to the snack better than almost any other I’ve paired pork crackling with, and in turn the beer added a sweetness to the salty snack that it almost didn’t deserve.

Give the combination a try; if you can. And if you haven’t yet, get out there are track down some of 8 Wired’s original ReWired. If you have any preconceptions of what a brown ale might be cast them aside and give it a go; you’ll surely love it. And that beer needs more love.

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Panhead Supercharger APA

Panhead Supercharger APA @ Golding’s Free Dive

It’d been a long hot day visiting my mother in her nursing home up the coast, and frankly I was quite looking forward to a nice beer after getting back into Wellington.  The timing was fortuitous, because it gave me a chance to stop by Golding’s Free Dive to see the much raved about Adam Page with his Wellington band, The Counts do what may well be their last gig in this town for a while.[1]

It was great fun.  Adam Page on saxophone, vocal yells, percussion and awesome beard, providing the spark on top of solid-and-funky drumming from Rick Cranson, and layers of primal keyboards from Ed Zuccullo.  An old musician friend of mine turned up part-way through, and together we marvelled at the colourful and gritty tones Zuccullo pulled from his Moog and Fender Rhodes.  Music you can feel, oh yes.  Antique keyboard porn.

The band are hugely fun, jazzy swagger, funky swing, familiar covers played with, played around with and seduced.[2]  Table-dancing and sing-alongs. Yells and hollers. Great stuff, in a relaxed Sunday afternoon funky little bar, buried away from the hot afternoon sun as summer finally gripped onto Wellington proper.

On tap was Panhead’s Supercharger American Pale Ale.  I couldn’t remember if I’d tried it before, but immediately raising to my lips I knew I had, because of the strong sense-memory.  It’s like the Tuatara American Pale Ale but more.  More body, more hops, more lingering, lip-smacking flavour.[3]  The relationship’s no surprise – Panhead’s Mike Nielson opened the brewery after putting everything on the line to start his own business after being with Tuatara for a fair while.

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