What does Barack Obama have in common with George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson? All four presidents will go down in history as loving their beer, as well as their country.
The current president released the two recipes for the White House’s top-secret beer recipe last week, after a citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
Obama has been serving its own home brew since he took office in 2009 and on Tuesday, the president dropped off some beer for Virginia firefighters while he was on the campaign trail.
The White House used honey from beehives managed by Michelle Obama on the South Lawn.
Bloomberg talked to one beer expert, Ray Daniels, who said using honey was something the Founding Fathers would appreciate—and would probably do back in the 18th century if they had beehives as a resource.
“It’s almost the sort of thing that the founding fathers might have done to take a traditional recipe from England and innovate by adding some local, homegrown ingredients to it,” he told the news service.
Obama’s chefs make three brews and only released two recipes (for Honey Porter and Honey Ale), because they can’t find the third one.
That would definitely be approved by George Washington, who had a well-known love for porter, which he kept in strong supply at Mount Vernon.
Historians have also unearthed one of Washington’s personal home brew recipes. The New York Public Library has his 1757 recipe for small beer (a type of light ale like a near beer) in Washington’s own handwriting.
Thomas Jefferson got into making beer in a big way after he left the White House in 1809. Jefferson took beer making at Monticello seriously. By 1814, he had his own personal brew house.
But James Madison takes the title of the patron of home brewing among the Founding Fathers. Madison wanted to form a national beer brewery in 1809 and appoint a Secretary of Beer to the presidential cabinet. Congress didn’t agree with the plan.
Madison’s goals weren’t entirely altruistic. Popular ales and other liquors were being imported into the United States, and Madison sought to protect the domestic beer market by placing tariffs on the imports.
If any president rivals Madison as a patriotic symbol for beer makers and beer drinkers, it has to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Roosevelt signed the laws that ended Prohibition in 1933. The Beer and Wine Revenue Act was the first effort to get around the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, by legalizing some beers and wines.
The passage of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933 repealed Prohibition.
But it took another president, Jimmy Carter, along with Congress, to make home brewing legal again in 1979. Carter wasn’t a big drinker, but his brother, Billy, had his own line of beer.
Presidents also understood the importance of beer on the campaign trail.
Here’s an Abraham Lincoln quote that could still be true today: “If given the truth, [the people] can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts—and beer.”
Ronald Reagan used a quick trip to a Boston-area pub in 1983 to re-connect with voters, when he sat down and had a beer with a few Democrats at the Eire Pub. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has a replica beer pub based on the one he patronized during a presidential trip to Ireland.
The current president always has a case of White House beer on his campaign bus.
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Interested in learning more about Prohibition?
The era of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends like Al Capone and Carry Nation will come vividly to life this October in the National Constitution Center’s world-premiere exhibition American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.