Having relentlessly promised a “no-surprises” Budget and then pre-announced virtually every interesting policy several weeks in advance, most political attention will be focused on what colour tie he will be wearing and how many times Labour Leader David Shearer will say “um” during his reply. 
Unlike his Australian counterpart, Mr English will not be announcing an increase in excise tax relief for small breweries, mainly because New Zealand does not have that enlightened policy here. However, the 2pm start will give him plenty of time to head down to Malthouse for an event that real people are actually looking forward to: The 2012 launch of Renaissance Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. It happens from 5pm on 24 May 2012 and everyone is welcome to attend.
Hosting this auspicious event will be Production Brewer and CEO of Renaissance, Mr Brian Thiel. He will just be back from Melbourne where he has been flying the flag at events like the New Zealand Tasting Showcase and the Australian International Beer Awards where Renaissance traditionally do very well. Craftsman was actually the 2011 Champion Stout at last year’s award.
Given the astronomical amount of money chatting to me on the phone would have cost him, Brian wisely suggested I talk to Andy at their Blenheim brewery. Andy Deuchars would seem ideally qualified to discuss Craftsman as he is the Head Brewer at Renaissance and the driving force behind the award-winning chocolate brew.
This is the third annual edition of Craftsman and Andy freely admits they are “making a bit more each year but still keeping people hungry.” The inspiration for the beer was simple:
“I’m a chocoholic – a real chocoholic,” Andy says. “Brian thinks it is totally unfair that I can eat chocolate all day and never put on weight.” 
Explaining the beer, Andy says “I love chocolate and I love stout – they are two great tastes that go well together. We use a bit of oatmeal because it smoothes the beer out. I definitely prefer the British-style stouts to the Irish-style stouts. The chocolate element
is provided by Belgian cocoa nibs – they are what chocolate is actually made out of. In the second year, I added a little vanilla to round out the cocoa. The only difference this year is that I have switched to a Tahitian vanilla I like better. Finally, I’m trying to keep it at 4.9%.”
Andy admits to enjoying the beer on its own but it is remarkably versatile. One of his brewers came into the brewery with a chocolate stout beef pie which was simply described as “phenomenal.”
Andy says Renaissance chose Malthouse for the launch venue again this year because it is “a great place which is really helping to bring up the image of craft beer in New Zealand. I really can’t say enough good stuff about Malthouse.”
During our most enjoyable interview, it became clear that either Andy had not read my blog post regarding the Craftsman launch in 2011 or, more likely, that he had read it and forgiven me for being an idiot. You see, I do not like chocolate – at all – and, as a consequence, I do not like chocolate beers – at all.  I wrote back then “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.” 
At the time, I described all chocolate beers as “inexplicably popular”. They joined my list of inexplicably popular things which included, but was not limited to, “ham and pineapple pizza, Shortland Street, Dux de Lux Ginger Tom, Mike King, Hamilton, Chris Laidlaw, Ellen DeGeneres and chocolate. “ If I was to update that list for 2012, I would add “those two chefs from the Foodstore, dubstep, the GC, Winston Peters, Bono, the Chiefs, ugg boots, eggplant and Manchester City.” There are no deletions from the 2011 list.
However, I am happy to admit that my anti-chocoholic stance is not shared by many. Andy described the initial sales as “a bit slow” but they really “shot up when people realised the beer was full of ‘yum’” 
Ignore my prejudices – Craftsman promises to be a smooth, rich, decadent and chocolate-y drop. It is on tap first at Malthouse on Budget Day. Who knows, you might see Bill English and David Shearer enjoying a sneaky pint in the lounge while their colleagues yell at each other in Parliament.
 I’ve got a lazy fiver on the Budget double of “a shade of blue which is suspiciously close to Tory blue” and “thirteen and over”.
 Brian may not be alone in that assessment.
 I have a very similar philosophy regarding fruit beers – I’m opposed.
 Fairly confident I have more than enough food and beverage vices without adding chocolate to the already substantial list. As an example, every time a conference or event asks me for dietary requirements, I put down “I like pies.” Over nearly two decades, this has been successful exactly twice.
 This is a chef-y term like “al dente”, “pukka” or “buy Regal Smoked Salmon”.
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Renaissance Craftsman Oatmeal Stout – http://www.renaissancebrewing.co.nz/content/craftsman-oatmeal-chocolate-stout-craft-beer.html
Malthouse Blog: What’s really in your Oatmeal Stout? – http://www.themalthouse.co.nz/index.php/blog/191-craftsman-stout
Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#beerlytweeting
Real Beer – www.realbeer.co.nz
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