Beer Highlights in Presidential History

by Brady

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Here’s a refreshing piece of news to come out of all the political turmoil facing our country during the past month or so…

The Obama White House recently brewed the the first ever beer in Capitol Hill history. Dubbed White House Honey Ale, the inaugural presidential homebrew featured a pound of honey from the White House beehive. Good news for watchdogs: all of the homebrewing equipment was purchased with the Obamas’ personal funds (no comments about where our taxes are going, please).

We have to wonder: how did it taste? Anyone get to try it? Obama, please send us a six-pack and we’ll review it for you!

Meanwhile, in honor of this important moment in the world of craft beer, I decided to put together a list of notable beer-related trivia as they relate to US Presidential history.

- George Washington, our beloved first president, reportedly made English-style porter his drink of choice, and kept his property well-stocked with it. The above photoshopped painting falsely documents this otherwise factual piece of trivia. Washington also brewed his own beer, crafting large reserves of small beer (light ale) for his plantation to last year-round.

- Thomas Jefferson also partook in the homebrew, considering beer a “table liquor” and serving it regularly at meals in Monticello.  In his later years, Jefferson became obsessed with the science and overall process of brewing beer, constructing a state of the art brewhouse on his grounds to experiment with. Our third commander-in-chief was the ultimate presidential beerophile.

- James Madison, “father of the constitution” and a noted proponent of small government during much of his political career, nevertheless seriously considered proposing a national government-run brewery. He also wanted to establish a secretary of beer for the cabinet. True story. As a member of the House, Madison encouraged “the manufacture of beer in every State in the Union,” part of his justification for proposing to levy taxes on barrels of ale and spirits (most of which were being imported from England and elsewhere).

- Rutherford B. Hayes banned all beer and other alcohol from the White House entirely at the behest of his wife. Talk about whipped. Next…

- On March 22nd, 1933, shortly after taking office, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Cullen-Harrison Act (which legalized the sale of beverages containing up to 3.2% alcohol) and the Beer and Wine Revenue Act (which gave states the power to regulate their own sales and distribution of beer, wine, and spirits). Shortly after that, in December, congress repealed Prohibition entirely. Huzzah!

- In 1978, Jimmy Carter signed a bill which made brewing beer and wine at home legal (it was actually federally illegal until then as a holdover from Prohibition), and also signed a separate Act which eliminated the vast majority of taxes on home-brewed beer and wine. Needless to say, the homebrew industry has been growing and growing ever since.

- In 2004 George W. Bush received a boost by the fact that many Americans would have preferred having a beer with him over John Kerry, instituting a standard that future presidential candidates might have to meet in order to cross the White House threshold…

- In 2009, Barack Obama held a small meeting at the White House which became known as the “Beer Summit”, in which he hoped to quell some racial tensions over the arrest of a black professor (Louis Gates, Jr.) by a white police officer (James Crowley). More was made about the beer they all drank than the purpose of the meeting itself…which is unfortunate, since they all drank light beers owned by foreign companies (Bud Light, Blue Moon, and Red Stripe). Perhaps he made up for this with the homebrew?

There are probably many more stories to tell, including the myth or fact that Teddy Roosevelt brought 500 gallons of beer with him on an extended African safari.  What the —-?

Comment away! Please let us know any fun or interesting presidential beer trivia you may have come across…

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Joyce March 11, 2011 at 4:11 am

I wonder if George Washington had a sense of humor. He obviously had great taste in beer. :)

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Care March 22, 2011 at 11:49 pm

nice. I enjoyed these presidential beer facts. We should look up that exact 1978 date that Carter signed the legal home brew and make it a Holiday.

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Brady March 24, 2011 at 3:44 am

Looks like the exact date is October 14th…I’ll put it on the ol’ calendar!

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Greg Wolsek January 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

Question: when did the goverment repeal the law conserning transportation of beer East of the mississippi? or was this just coppelwash made up for The movie Smoky and the Bandit??

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Brady February 15, 2012 at 10:18 am

According to Wikipedia:

For much of its history, Coors beer was a regional product; its marketing area was confined to the American west. This made it a novelty on the East Coast, and visitors returning from the western states often brought back a case. This iconic status was reflected in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit, which centered around an illegal shipment of Coors from Texas to Georgia. The company finally established nationwide distribution in the U.S. in the mid-1980s.

…have to admit, I haven’t seen that movie. Sacrilege, right?

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