Few mainstream journalists will have had Mr Key or Mr Goff stop an interview so the politician can pour something direct from the tanks or dig up an old bottle from the cellar. *

When I first visited Renaissance Brewery in Blenheim, I was still very much a neophyte beer writer, reliant on a beer-splattered notebook and a camera so old it was not digital.  However, head brewer Andy Deuchars and CEO/production brewer Brian Thiel still managed to provide two of my all-time favourite quotes.

Describing his brewing philosophy, Andy memorably said “If it is worth doing, it is worth over-doing.”  Commenting on the difficulties of distribution for a brand new brewery, Brian noted “Our beers are conveniently available almost nowhere.”  Since then, the Renaissance crew have taken great strides in improving distribution but have, thankfully, not taken a step back on “over-doing” it.  Their range remains big, bold and flavoursome with nary a lager or wheat beer in sight.  I for one welcome this approach.

So, it would seem, do others.  Renaissance picked up four silver medals at the Australian International Beer Awards with their four entries, a strike rate which saw them shortlisted for Champion Small Brewery – only to be pipped by Nogne O.

On Thursday 17 June the worldwide launch of the 2010 version of Renaissance Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout will occur at Malthouse from 5pm.  Brian Thiel will be the star of the show saying his role “will be sampling some beers around the bar, being there to answer any questions and generally dazzling and amazing all the Renaissance beer fans.”

In addition, the new Craftsman and perennial Malthouse favourite Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale will be joined on tap by Renaissance Discovery American Pale Ale and Renaissance Elemental Porter.  Colin Mallon, the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Proprietor, calculates this will be the largest number of Renaissance beers Malthouse has ever had on tap at one time. **

The 2010 Craftsman has had a significant recipe tweak.  The crystal, brown and black malts are still joined by the organic rolled oats for mouthfeel.  Twenty kilos of premier Belgian cocoa nibs have again been added to just 2,000 litres of stout, including a large addition in fermenter.  This year however, Renaissance has upped the mash temperature (for more body) and added vanilla (to round out the chocolate and fill out the body).

I haven’t tried the new batch yet but Brian Thiel naturally has.  He says it is “like eating a chocolate bar” and promises that “what you get in your glass at the launch is going to be memorable.”  Certainly, the early sales have been so strong that Craftsman is already on an ‘allocation’ system to most outlets.  It will be launched in Blenheim on 18 July (Dodson Street Bistro and Alehouse *** – all welcome) before being released in bottle next week.  Far from being “conveniently available almost nowhere”, Renaissance beers are now being exported to Australia, America and Canada. 

In terms of food matching (and remember Malthouse has an off-licence both for tap beer and bottles), Renaissance recommends Craftsman as a great accompaniment to fruit desserts, rich cakes, biscuits, cookies and venison.

The Inner Iron Chef in me wonders if it would be possible to use Renaissance Craftsman to make a Mole – a generic term for a Mexican sauce for meat which uses chocolate and chilli as ingredients.  ****

That is quite enough preposterous gastronomic flights of fancy for one post.  The key point is that the global launch of Renaissance Craftsman is at Malthouse, Thursday 17 June from 5pm.

Observant pedestrians (and a few frustrated tipplers) would have noticed that the cast-iron Malthouse doors remained closed for two days over the long weekend.  This was so the floor could be freshly sanded and varnished.  Come in and give it go.

* The Mayor of North Shore may be an exception to this rule
** Four.  This is scientifically considered at the very limit of accurate mathematical calculations performed by people from Glasgow, Scotland
*** I love a place which lists “fish of the day – chef’s choice of preparation”
**** OK – It is clearly not possible for me.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


New and improved Renaissance website – http://www.renaissancebrewing.co.nz/default.aspx
Renaissance Craftsman – http://www.renaissancebrewing.co.nz/content/craftsman-oatmeal-chocolate-stout-craft-beer.html
Renaissance on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/RenaissanceBrewing?ref=ts
Dodson Street Bistro – http://www.dodsonstreetbistro.co.nz/
Stephen Beaumont on Renaissance – http://worldofbeer.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/reasons-i-want-to-visit-new-zealand/
Malthouse on Twitter – http://twitter.com/malthouse
Malthouse Facebook Group – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellington/Malthouse/7084276173
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/