This week, aspiring candidates are participating in community debates attended by precisely zero genuinely undecided voters, political parties are frantically releasing policies on every conceivable issue in search of the mythical “game breaker” and journalists are breathlessly interviewing each other about the innocuous contents of an illegally recorded tape.
Looking to lift the bar of political journalism, the Malthouse blog sent every candidate for the Wellington Central electorate a simple survey – what are your favourite beers and what are your favourite bars? Turnout was a vaguely respectable 50% (six out of twelve) and – in the interests of fairness – the responses are presented in the order they were received. Some took a very liberal interpretation of “a sentence or two”, a trait which will doubtless serve them well if they make it into Parliament.
First to reply was Paul Foster-Bell from the National Party:
“We’re spoiled for choice these days, but if I had to pick just one favourite at the moment it would be the Tuatara Aotearoa Pale Ale. Tuatara was born in the Wellington region and their local take on the APA is the perfect drop for my tastes. It is hoppy but balanced and goes down perfectly with a takeaway curry which is the standard evening meal for this hard-working candidate on the campaign trail.
Another favourite is Emerson’s Pilsner. First exposed to Emerson’s beers in my student days at Otago, as a boutique alternative to the bog standard student beer – Speight’s. I enjoy the fruity nose of Riwaka Nelson hops and the dry finish of this excellent expression of the pilsner style. Very refreshing on a warm late spring afternoon.
Plus there’s the Yeastie Boys Malthouse Lady Marmalade. Like National’s policies it’s refreshing and readily quaffable.  I have enjoyed a few of these over the past few months, when one has to ‘drink and run’. And at 5% alcohol it’s not too tough on the liver if one decides to stay for a second pint.”
In terms of bars, he notes in no particular order of preference “The Bangalore Polo Club – This new addition on Courtenay Place already has my vote – Raj-inspired decor, massive curry dinners, a cheekily-name house tap beer ‘Badger’s Piss’ and a good range of bottled ales on offer fit the bill. And a helpful staff which belies the otherwise heavy Imperial Victorian atmosphere make this place an instant hit in my books. Plus it’s so close to home it’s basically ‘the local’ for an evening ale – when I’m not out door knocking. 
The Speight’s Ale House/Shepherd’s Arms on Tinakori Rd is a hardy mainstay of Wellington Central hospitality, in a beautiful old building nestled in historic Thorndon. I like the southern charm, reminiscent of scarfie days down south. One can always be sure of a warm welcome and personal service here. Plus there’s the Speight’s range on tap, and the Stewart Island Seafood Chowder and Blue Cod & Chips are hearty and well-priced.
The new Fork & Brewer on Bond St – where all meals are matched with the perfect ale accompaniment.  Particular treats here are the 8Wired Hopwired, one of the hoppiest beers on the market, which is available on tap; along with Epic Pale Ale; Fuller’s London Porter and the horopito-spiced Mata Brown Boy which I’ve tried for something a little different. It appeals to my Nga Puhi sense of humour. I also enjoy the filling pastas.”
Next to reply was Labour candidate and current Wellington MP Grant Robertson. He wrote:
“Over the last few years I have found myself drinking darker beers, as it seems to suit my system a bit better. A one off moment in that regard came with the Emerson’s Dunkel I had in Dunedin earlier in the year which was truly beautiful, deep and rich (are those ‘beer’ words?)  More common is a Tuatara or Emerson’s Porter, or failing that Monteith’s Black. If I am drinking at the other end of the scale, an Epic Pale Ale is a nice refreshing drink.”
In terms of bars I have not spent much time in them in recent times but I still like Havana, SFBH and for the music Bodega. I watched the RWC final at El Horno, which was fun, but I suspect most places were that night!”
The third response came from Kelly Buchanan from the Alliance Party. She bravely argued “I’m not really a beer person, I’m afraid; sickly-sweet cocktails are more my cup of tea. Or failing that, a nice cold glass of cider. Not a huge connoisseur of the bar scene either, though I do have a certain fondness for S&M’s  and JJ Murphy.”
I initially thought the Conservative Party would be unlikely to respond to a beer survey but candidate Paul Stipkovits proved me wrong and baffled my spell checker. His reply was “the Monteith’s range is always the top choice for me. It’s either Original or Golden, and – when on sale – Summer Ale. But nothing beats enjoying the flavours of Golden on a nice sunny day. My pick of bar in Wellington Central would be Southern Cross. The vibe there is awesome.”
The implausibly youthful Stephen Whittington from ACT was next and he accidentally answered both questions directly. Mr Whittington said “My favourite beer is Tuatara Pilsner, although I am also a fan of the Three Boys Wheat. I’d attempt to explain the way in which the complex flavours interact to make them special, but I think it’d probably make more sense coming from Neil. 
My favourite bar is probably the Cavern Club, although I dislike their live bands – their music should reflect the heyday of the original Cavern Club. Just for a quiet drink I quite like St John’s, especially on a sunny day.”
Despite my fledgling reputation as a political pundit, I was unaware of the New Economics movement until I saw Laurence Boomert on the Wellington Central ballot paper. He is one of their two candidates for the party and proudly confirmed “Yes I do like to drink beer when not drinking whiskey. My favourite places to enjoy beer in Wellington are along the waterfront. I particularly like sinking the decently chilled Tuatara Pale Ales at Cuckoo Cocktail Emporium. Because I am a keen fan of buying local/local production, I also enjoy a Mac’s Gold down at their brewery.”
Interestingly, a journalist just profiled one of my billboards at the Miramar cutting for his article on my campaign. It was our last to go up – we had run out of washers so using kiwi ingenuity to the fore we found we could flatten beer bottle lids to use with nails very effectively which just happened to be Tuatara Pale Ale lids as that is what we were drinking at the time (hot work putting up billboards). You can actually spot them if you look hard at the picture (link below). This is honest injuns – no cook up job – a nice coincidence to your survey.” 
Unfortunately, the other six candidates did not reply by the deadline so they have been assigned favourite beers:
Michael Appleby (Legalise Cannabis Party) – Lagunitas Censored Ale (previously Lagunitas Kronik)
Ben Craven (NZ First) – Emerson’s 1812 IPA (1812 is Winston’s year of birth)
Reagan Cutting (Libertarianz) – Whatever beer Ayn Rand used to drink…
Puhi Karena (Independent) – Te Kawa
Gynn Rickerby (Pirate Party) – Piraat Lager
James Shaw (Greens) – mikes Organic Strawberry Blonde.
 Well, around 78% of them might.
 Mr Foster-Bell makes my beer writing look impartial and non-partisan by comparison.
 He clearly knows Prime Minister John Key is an avid reader of this blog.
 While he is spot on about the matches, the guy who wrote them also drank most of the Hopwired so it is not currently on tap…
 Don’t feel guilty – most people will read that part of the sentence at least twice.
 Why is this man not a Cabinet Minister?
 I find it hard to imagine that any politician would use Photoshop or otherwise alter images for use in an election campaign.
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine
National – www.national.org.nz
Labour – www.labour.org.nz
Alliance – www.alliance.org.nz
Conservative – www.conservativeparty.org.nz/
Act – www.act.org.nz
New Economics – www.neweconomics.net.nz/
New Economics billboard – www.newswire.co.nz/2011/11/behind-fun-lies-a-serious-election-message/
Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com//#!/malthouse
Real Beer – www.realbeer.co.nz
Beer and Brewer Magazine – www.beerandbrewer.com/