Details on the Obama White House homebrewed beer

Details on the Obama White House homebrewed beer
Thumbnail image for beerorama_appleton_mugs.jpg

The President and First Lady check out some pewter beer steins. I'm not sure, but it looks like the Marines behind them also have a glass in their hands. White House photo by Samantha Appleton.

The craft beer and homebrewing communities got quite a surprise on Super Bowl Sunday. No, not Adrien Brody crooning in the Stella Artois commercial. It was the news that the White House Super Bowl party offered up a homebrewed ale along with beers from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The Obama Foodorama blog broke the story about White House Honey Ale, made with a homebrewing setup purchased privately by the Obamas, and brewed with a pound of honey from the recently installed White House beehive.

The blog's author, Eddie Gelman Kohan, has answered requests from myself, and doubtless hundreds of other beer bloggers and writers, for more information about the Presidential homebrew setup. Who's the Brewermaster-in-Chief? Is this the first time beer has been made at the Executive Mansion?

In a new entry titled The Obamas Make History With Homebrewed White House Honey Ale, Kohan has sought more details from some of the White House staff:

  • While the homebrew setup was purchased from the Obamas' personal funds, Semonti Stephens, a spokeman for the East Wing, would not identify the specific equipment. Protocol, I believe, so as not to appear to be offering endorsements. But while the White House kitchen is "notoriously small," it is well-equipped, and may already have some of the required kettles and vessels that could double as fermenters.
  • No brewmaster has been identified, but many of the dozen White House chefs are interested or involving in homebrewing. "It's a collaborative effort," Stephens said.
  • Some test batches were made before the official announcement of the Executive Brewery on February 6. The kitchen staff still wants to tweak the recipe before making it public. Meantime, I'm checking out their Key Lime Pie made with greek yogurt!
  • Assistant chef Sam Kass is not only excited about homebrewing, he's considering having hops planted in the First Lady's Kitchen Garden, a 1,500 square foot plot that serves as a chefs' food source and an educational resource. It's the first food garden at the White House since World War II.
  • Despite George Washington and Thomas Jefferson being known for having beer made at their homes, there is no record of brewing having ever been done at the White House before, according to Bill Allman, historian and White House Curator. Washington's executive residence was in Manhattan, after all, where his favorite porter could be easily bought, and Allman told Kohan that while Jefferson "rather famously took a personal interest in buying wines, by which he severely depleted his personal accounts," a previous White House historian recorded that Jefferson's Steward bought the whiskey, beer, and cider that was served. I think one of the Adamses of Boston did a little brewing, too. Allman also admitted that some illegal hootch was consumed at the White House during Prohibition, without suggesting any particular President (but I'm looking at you, "Silent Cal" Coolidge).

Kohan writes that her blog has been flooded with hundreds of emails about the Presidential brewing effort, with invitations to her and to the White House for President Obama to attend beer and homebrewing festivals. I'll hope to share a beer with the O-Man someday myself.

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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