I have never really had a sweet tooth so beers with chocolate in them, however well made, are not really been my cup of ale.  However, I would be the first to acknowledge there certainly are a lot of fans out there and requests for help in finding chocolate beers is probably the fourth most asked question at my public tastings. [1]

Those fans in turn would argue that New Zealand produces one of the world’s better chocolate beers – Renaissance Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout – a seasonal brew which is released annually around the start of June.  2011 will be the third vintage of this beer which just won a Gold Medal and Trophy for best packaged stout at the recent Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA). [2]

There were nearly 1,200 entries from 34 countries this year.  Renaissance was the only Kiwi brewery to win a Trophy though gold medals were also won by Moa (5 Hop Ale) and Steam (Cock and Bull Monk’s Habit).  Interestingly, two other chocolate beers – Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Rogue Chocolate Stout – picked up gold medals in the hybrid beer category.

Renaissance Craftsman 2011 will be launched at Malthouse from 5pm on Wednesday 1 June.  Apart from the beer, the star attraction will be Renaissance CEO and production brewer Brian Thiel who will be sampling some beer, answering questions and, in his words, generally “dazzling and amazing all the Renaissance beer fans.”  There will be a similar launch in their hometown of Blenheim the following day.

The Craftsman uses a mix of crystal, brown and black malts with organic rolled oats added for mouthfeel.  However, the most prominent (and expensive) ingredient is the rather large amount of Belgian cocoa nibs which are progressively added to the mash, brew kettle and fermentation tanks.  It is the combination of the oats and chocolate which really make this beer so special and so anticipated.  Renaissance describes it as the “big brother” of their Elemental porter.

Over at BrewNation, they wax lyrical about the beer saying:

“The aroma is incredible.  Fresh coffee roasting beside a pile of chopped dark chocolate.  The taste doesn’t disappoint, starting with a mild bitterness and dissolving quickly into sweetness which releases the sort of flavours most stouts can only aspire to.  There is roasted coffee, hints of chocolate and vanilla washing through on a creamy mouthfeel.”

The Renaissance boys have always had an uncompromising approach to brewing and this quote sums up their attitude and has a flick at some of their mainstream rivals:

“We do not compromise on flavour and believe that teaspoons of sugar should only be added to cups of tea.”

Finally, beer will be on the television again, this time on TV3 tonight at 7:30pm.  “What is Really in Our Food” takes a look at “What is Really in Our Beer”.  I was interviewed for it, as was Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing Company.  One of us is much more comfortable in front of the camera [3] but it was a lot of fun.  The presenter has actually changed since the original footage was shot so I imagine they will have to do some clever editing.

He is the blurb for the show:

“There’s pure, low-carb, and additive free, but are traditional beers full of additives and preservatives?  We investigate why so many women hate the taste, and if beer could lower a man’s sperm count.”

I am presuming Luke covered that final point.

Oh, and the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is malt, oats, chocolate, yeast, vanilla, water and no teaspoons of sugar.

[1] Behind “what is the difference between an ale and a lager”, “why does Steinlager give me such a headache” and “is there any more beer please?”
[2] Another Gold Medal winning beer was Feral Brewing Company’s “Fantapants”.  This is not relevant to this post but I really wanted to mention it.
[3] Hint: It is the smaller chap with a mischievous grin.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


Renaissance Brewing – www.renaissancebrewing.co.nz
Renaissance Craftsman – http://renaissance.minutepast2.com/content/craftsman-oatmeal-chocolate-stout-craft-beer.html
Renaissance on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/RenaissanceBrewing
Big wins at the Australian International Beer Awards – http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/5048010/Blenheim-brew-picks-up-top-global-award
What is Really in our Beer – http://www.tv3.co.nz/Shows/WhatsReallyInOur.aspx

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 
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/