Regular Beer Town readers may recall that my father was a basement homebrewer, long before president Jimmy Carter signed the 1978 House Resolution that made it legal.
Of course, the father of our country, George Washington, was a homebrewer, too. So was Thomas Jefferson. And now, thanks to president Obama, there’s homebrewing going on in the White House kitchen.
Recently, after repeated questions from reporters and an online petition, the White House released the recipes for White House Honey Ale and White House Honey Porter on its official blog. The post titled “Ale to the Chief” included a bubbly video of the brewing process.
“Last year President Obama bought a home brewing kit for the kitchen,” wrote White House assistant chef, Sam Kass. “After the few first drafts we landed on some great recipes that came from a local brew shop. We received some tips from a couple of home brewers who work in the White House who helped us amend it and make it our own.
“To be honest, we were surprised that the beer turned out so well since none of us had brewed beer before.”
That reaction is typical in the memories of most homebrewers I know. The recipes, which use steeped grains, malt extract and hop pellets, look a lot like the ingredients for the first batch of homebrew I ever made. It wasn’t too bad, either.
The secret ingredient is honey from a beehive on the South Lawn. But that didn’t make everyone think it was a sweet idea. Predictably, in this fiercest of political seasons, White House kitchen homebrewing stirred up both joy and derision.
Beer Institute President Joe McClain released this statement: “The Beer Institute applauds the president for his enthusiasm for beer and sharing his passion with beer lovers everywhere. Beer has a unique ability to bring people together, regardless of race, class or geography. While there may be much that divides is, beer has always been a unifier and an equalizer, and a proud part of the American culture.”
AP reporter Matthew Daly wrote: “Obama and his team frequently talk about the president’s fondness for beer, and Obama has been photographed many times downing a beer, including an appearance at the Iowa State Fair last month. Being identified as a beer drinker is an easy way for Obama to connect with voters and serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that his Republican rival Mitt Romney, a Mormon, doesn’t drink.”
Even some of the homebrewing members the Atlanta beer talk group I subscribe to scattered a few partisan volleys, before being reminded that it wasn’t the time or the place for political rhetoric.
Here’s the complete list of White House Honey Ale ingredients:
2 (3.3 pound) cans light malt extract
1 pound light dried malt extract
12 ounces crushed amber crystal malt
8 ounces biscuit malt
1 pound White House honey
1 1/2 ounces Kent Goldings hop pellets
1 1/2 ounces Fuggles hop pellets
2 teaspoon gypsum
1 package Windsor dry ale yeast
3/4 cup corn sugar for priming
Here’s a link to the original White House post with complete recipes:
New York Times drinks writer, Eric Aismoz interviewed Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver about the White House beer and asked Oliver to describe what he thought it might taste like, based on the ingredients and the recipe.
“Light, crisp and dry, with some bready flavors from the malts, floral notes from the honey, and fruitiness from the British ale yeast,’’ Oliver said. “Altogether pleasant, great with seafood and salads, goat cheeses, or hanging out in the sunshine in the Rose Garden.’’
If you’re a brewer or homebrewer or beer drinker, what are your thoughts?
By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog