Brew Hui Meets: Søren Eriksen

I’ve noticed a commonality amongst high-achievers: it’s their perpetual dissatisfaction with the status quo. Simply-put, high-achieving types are never f**king happy with the way things are – instead believing that they can always be better. I reckon it’s the chase – the never-ending pursuit of perfection – that groups the truly exceptional.

Case-in-point: fifteen seconds after meeting Søren Eriksen – founder of 8 Wired – at his new fledgling brewery north of Auckland, he was already whinging.

We were talking about the size of his new brewery: I’d said that it was cavernous – and at 400-plus square metres, it’s nearly twice the size of the space he’s left behind in Blenheim – but in Søren’s mind, the currently-empty space was already fit-to-burst. He described – three-dimensionally – exactly what was going where, and how every cubic metre already had a thing to fill it. Production will, in all probability, eventually spill outside the building; but Søren was quick to shrug this off as simply par for the course.

Sheesh.  It must be f**king exhausting being a high-achiever.

The move from Blenheim to Warkworth – motivated principally by whānau – has been a gradual one, systematically and thoughtfully spread over time. As I ‘go to print’, he’s overseeing the transportation of his incredible barrel-aging programme to its new Northern home; a move which is sure to shorten his fingernails and whiten his brewer’s beard:

Søren’s road to Warkworth began – inevitably – with a Cooper’s kit. It all happened in Perth: while writing his Master’s thesis in biochemistry, Søren discovered the renowned (and local) Little Creatures Pale Ale. It was an epiphenal moment for a Dane raised on Tuborg and Carlsberg, with the flavour explosion smacking him in the face. The experience left a mark, and opened his budding-biochemist mind to the possibilities presented by beer and brewing. With the unexpected Christmas gift of a Cooper’s kit, his wife Monique simply threw a match on the tinder.

The rapidity with which Then wipes to Now is nothing short of baffling. In less than a decade, Søren has gone from Cooper’s kit newbie to firm member of New Zealand’s brewing elite – swiftness at least partly attributable to the most Bad-Ass genesis story in New Zealand brewing:

Not long after being crowned New Zealand Poker Champion – twice – Søren was again called to the winner’s podium: when, a mere two years after putting-down their first beer, 8 Wired were crowned New Zealand’s Supreme Champion Brewery. When I asked Søren about the gong, he said its enduring importance wasn’t related to sales – 8 Wired‘s rise was already exponential, and you can only make so much beer – but rather to peer recognition. It was a form of validation for a man who’d barely sat down at the Round Table before being crowned King.

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After our hui at the new 8 Wired HQ, Søren suggested that we swing-by Warkworth institution Tahi Bar for a hand-pulled pint of Townshends, our current King. Halfway into our pints – pulled from a Porsche engine block, no less – Søren’s wife Monique dropped-by unexpectedly to deliver some T-shirts for the Tahi team. Monique’s appearance reminded me of an important point: that while Søren may catch all the glory, the story of 8 Wired began with a swift kick-up-the-bum from a loving wife.

No man (or woman) is an island: we all need someone who believes in us – a focal companion, who sees our potential (even when we can’t) and won’t let us settle for anything less than our best. I’m not talking about the fair-weather motivators – the largely-superficial You Can Do It crowd – but rather the folk who are prepared to risk it all and put their chips on our number. In this regard, Søren has Monique; the Yeastie Boys, wives Fritha and Anna; Martin Townshend, his wife Keri – and so on, and so on. These forces may be invisible to the naked eye, but then so is oxygen – and I’d wager that the two are equally-elemental to a brewer’s success.

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Walking out of Tahi and through the charming streets of Warkworth – bordered to the north by the gently-flowing Mahurangi – I couldn’t help but sense that these Northerners might just be the smartest folk in Godzone. Already sitting on the doorstep of Matakana wine country – and within cooee of Leigh Sawmill, creators of exceptional Doppelbock The Doctor – Warkworth is now home to a world-class brewery, led by a restless visionary with a bum-kicking wife.

Pack your things, Team Gurney: we’re moving.

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