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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Politics of Beer

By Steve Siciliano

Maybe it’s because I generally ignore politics that I only recently heard that President Obama had purchased homebrewing equipment—with his own money, staffers are eager to point out—and that a number of batches of White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Blond and White House Honey Porter have been brewed by the executive mansion’s chefs. (Allegedly, the honey in the recipes is sourced from a beehive in the First Lady’s kitchen garden.) Upon doing a little internet research I learned that Mr. Obama first served “his” home brew at a 2011 White House Super Bowl Party, that he recently gifted a case of the executive suds to firefighters at a station in Virginia, and that he keeps his campaign bus well stocked with the hand-crafted brew.

"Your first attempt at all grain? Not bad."
It’s a well-documented fact that the President’s affinity for beer is not a recent development. In July of 2009, a potentially nasty racial issue was diffused over a few mugs of beer when Obama invited Henry Gates, a black Harvard professor, and James Crowley, the white police officer who arrested Gates for disorderly conduct, to a “Beer Summit” at the White House. Do an internet image search for “Obama and beer” and you’ll get dozens of not so recent photos of the President clasping a cold one in pubs, pizza parlors, bowling alleys and state fairs. But what is a recent and, I might add, interesting development is that our beer-loving Chief Executive’s opponent in the upcoming presidential election is a teetotaler.

Now, I highly doubt (in fact I hope) that we haven’t gotten to the point where a president is elected in this country because he or she does or does not enjoy an occasional beer. But in a close race the perceived “likability” of a candidate just might be the difference between winning and losing, and the juxtaposition of a beer drinking Obama next to lemonade sipping Romney certainly isn’t helping the perception of the latter’s aristocratic, better-than-thou public image.

You can bet that the Romney camp is doing a little hand wringing over this. If Mitt was a drinker the solution would be easy—place a beer in his hand and have him quaff a few pints in the heartland with the common folks. Obviously that’s not going to happen, so it’s up to the vice-presidential candidate to pinch hit for his boss. If I was running the Republican campaign I would send Paul Ryan on a tour of the nation’s breweries. I would dress him in logoed T-shirts and hats and have him hang out in the pubs. I would have photo-ops with him wearing safety glasses and pouring a bucketful of hops into a kettle or stirring the mash. I would have Mitt end every speech with the words: “I may not drink beer, dammit, but I sure picked a running mate who does.” It just might make for an interesting campaign.

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