UPDATED: White House MAY disclose homebrew recipes

UPDATED: White House MAY disclose homebrew recipes

Update: Just after I posted this article based on information I got this afternoon, I was led by Reddit to a Tweet by White House press secretary Jay Carney this evening, in which he suggests he may be changing his mind:

Jay Carney (EOP) Jay Carney (EOP)Verified ‏@PressSec

Got a Q today on @wethepeople petition asking us to share WH beer recipe: http://wh.gov/4y9b  If it reaches the threshold, we'll release it

Will the kitchen staff cooperate? We may find out sooner than later.

There was some buzz again this month again regarding the beer being brewed at the White House. It started with the reveal of a "White House Honey Ale" at President Obama's 2011 Super Bowl Party. Later, there were erroneous reports that more homebrew was being served during White House St. Patrick's Day Events. Last September, President Obama served a White House Honey Blonde Ale at the behest of Medal of Honor awardee, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, on the Rose Garden patio.

Two weeks ago, the President confirmed that the small homebrewing setup was still operating, and that a supply of the beer is kept in stock. Mr. Obama even gave a bottle of the Honey Ale to a customer during a campaign stop in Iowa. It's know that there are at least three varieties of White House homebrew: the Honey Ale, Honey Blonde Ale, and a Honey Porter, all made with, you guessed it, honey from the beehive in the White House Kitchen Garden.

Somehow, this has prompted an odd sort of backlash. On August 18, someone named "John L." created an online petition on the White House web site, reading "Following in the footsteps of great men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, Barack Obama has reportedly been enjoying the rewards of home brewed beer. In keeping with the traditions of the founding fathers, homebrewers across America call on the Obama Administration to release the recipe for the White House home brew so that it may be enjoyed by all." As of Thursday night, August 23, the petition has 4,177 signatures, a bit short of the 25,000 needed by September 17 to earn a White House response. Then an anonymous Redit user posted a copy of a Freedom of Information Act request he'd sent for the recipes.

As the conversation on this petition was Starting to get snarky, I e-mailed food writer Eddie Gehman Kohan, proprietor of the Obama Foodorama blog, which originally conform the news about the Obama's Super Bowl beer. I wish I could claim that I had something to do with getting a result, but Ms. Kohan replied with a link to this article she had posted to the blog at that same moment. She cites White House Press secretary Jay Carney's daily press briefing, where he said "I’m not aware of any plans at this time to divulge the secret recipes."

Kohan said she had previously been told by Assistant Chef Sam Kass that while he is responsible for stocking beer on the President's tour bus, the actual brewing is done by a "group effort" of chefs who also homebrew.

Considering the play this story is getting from certain opinion factories, some may see it as a quid pro quo for the calls for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Despite the potential political ramification, though, neither side is likely to have any legal reasons to release their respective documents. The Miami New Times  has dissected the FOIA request and noted:

"According to the Freedom of Information Act of 1966, there are nine exemptions when it comes to releasing info to the public. Unless the beer recipe is a matter regarding national security or foreign policy (exemption 1), or if a specific law calls for the recipe to remain secret (exemption 3), we can't think of any other reason why it should remain hidden from the People. We in the media generally agree think all FOIA requests should be honored."

I am supposing, backed by no real facts, that the White House beer recipes have been tweaked with each batch and don't really exist in a definite form. Besides, the tradition seems to have been to change recipes from government officials so as not to suggest preference for any particular brand. While it may be easy to replace "Philly" in a recipe with the more generic "cream cheese," it may be harder if the brewers have a preference for, say, Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast over White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast.

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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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