Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sam Chapple-Sokol on The Obama Beerorama

Sam Chapple-Sokol is both a hopeful and hop-full fellow. Originally from Vermont, the 23-year-old Washingtonian is a beer brewer who writes for the online magazine The Humble Gourmand. And oh yeah, his day job is at The Department of Justice. Chapple-Sokol created The Audacity of Hops during election season, which is perhaps the most wittily named Obama food item in existence. The 51-bottle microbrew had ingredients symbolizing Obama’s past and future (read the funny recap of the creation process here), and Chapple-Sokol and friends celebrated Obama’s victory with it. The Audacity of Hops got a lot of attention, and we wondered what beer-hijinks Chapple-Sokol’s up to now, with The Inauguration looming on the event horizon. The following is our e-chat, which includes a terrific analysis of Washington beer culture, and what the Obama Beerorama might look like from January 20 onward.

Obama Foodorama: Are you doing an inaugural brew? If so, will you make a lot of it, since Audacity of Hops hit such a nerve?
Sam Chapple-Sokol: Yes. Yes I am. I bought ingredients today, so I'd better get around to it - no one wants 60 pounds of malt to go to waste.

ObFo: How long will it take you to make the brew? What will be in it?
SCS: It takes a couple of months from brewing till drinking, so I'll be starting shortly. I'm planning an Audacity of Hops, InaugurAle Edition ('09% ABV, replacing Challenger hops with Liberty hops) as well as an as-yet-unnamed celebratory brew, which I'll be working on with a few brewing colleagues of mine.

ObFo: Do you have brewing gear at home? When you say brewing colleagues--are these the equivalent of your "posse?" Your "beer crew?"
SCS: I have all of my equipment at home. My house has two kitchens, so I've turned the smaller one into its own little brewery--luckily for my roommates, the other one is actually devoted to cooking. And yeah, a couple of friends and I have started up a DC-area homebrewers' organization. We get together over some beers (obviously), discuss recipes, and make up bad puns. We're planning a few brewtorials for interested parties, and we're currently in negotiation about the collective InaugurAle.

ObFo: Your dad roasted the coffee you used f0r Audacity of Hops [Chapple-Sokol refers to this as ‘Beans From My Father,’ another fun ref to the Obama oeuvre]. Is Pops getting in on this one too?
SCS: My dad did roast me another batch of his coffee, which (for you coffee roasting nerds out there, get ready for the pun) he calls "Full AudaCity of Hope Roast." What with four more batches of my beer coming, I feel like I'm overloading his small roaster--soon enough I'll have to buy him a professional size roaster to keep up with the orders.

ObFo: Kendall-Jackson winery sent cases of wine to the Obamas following the victory. Any plans to send some newly made InaugurAle?
SCS: Well, I'd love it if it were served at the Inaugural Ball - who wouldn't want to be the Official White House Brewer? But no, I feel that I lack code certifications, etc. for my beer to get past Secret Security. But if you're reading this, Mr. Obama, I saved #50 (Hawaii) from the original batch, so just email me at and I'll bring it to you. Or if you can't email, have Rahm do it for you.

ObFo: Obama claims to love his beer, but it seems that Pabst Blue Ribbon is the one he prefers. Do you like PBR, or is it swill, beloved by art world hipsters?
SCS: Hey, if Barack's a hipster, Barack's a hipster. You'll see, he'll have Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio play the Inaugural Ball (that would be so awesome. I'd totally rent a tux for that). And hey, at least he's drinking American, which is so difficult these days, what with Belgian Budweiser and South African Miller.

ObFo: Obama's family chili recipe has gotten published globally, and he eats it drenched in hot sauce. What beer would you pair with it, other than your own?
SCS: If Obama likes chili with hot sauce, he'll need something to cut all the heat. Nothing better than a good hoppy IPA for that - Sierra Nevada might be a good choice, or the Magic Hat winter seasonal, Roxy Rolles. Mmm, I'd have me one of those with some good spicy chili right now....

ObFo: What're the fave brews for 20- somethings, 30-somethings, and 40-somethings in Washington, and what's the best beer bar in town?
SCS: I don't know if DC breaks down by age, but more by neighborhood. Capitol Hill likes Blue Moon, Dupont favors Bud Light Lime, Mt. Pleasant is a Modelo neighborhood, Adams Morgan has their National Bohemian, Columbia Heights Pabst, and Georgetown's favorite beer is Jagerbombs. Best beer bar? It's cliche, yes, but Brickskeller really is tops. They have three wet hopped beers on tap this month. It's a beer nerd's fantasy.

ObFo: Do brews in DC break down along party lines, that you've noticed?
SCS: Dems like Blue Moon, Repubs Killian's Red? No, that's just too easy. It's much more nuanced than that.

ObFo: Big chat in the blogosphere about what Washington restaurants the Obamas will frequent. What would YOU recommend for them?
SCS: Hmm, I do like food, but I'll leave the restaurant recommendations to the food bloggers. I do think that the First Family should check out the bars of the city, though. For a date, Mr. and Mrs. Obama could share a goblet of Chimay served on tap at the Marx Cafe. With the girls, they should head to Pizzeria Paradiso - beers from the onsite Birreria for the adults, and great pizza for the kids. If Barack wants to study up on foreign affairs, he and Joe could head to The Brickskeller (pictured) and learn how to say "Cheers!" in the languages of all the beer-loving nations of the world.

ObFo: A bartender in Texas invented the "Barackatini." Is there some awesome "beer cocktail" you'd create for Obama?
SCS: Well, I always like a good Black and Tan. So let's say a half pint of Porter (preferably Kona Brewing Company's Pipeline Porter) and a half pint of a light bitter (preferably Goose Island's Honkers Ale). We'll call it the Barack and Tan. For something a bit stronger (and more diplomatic), finish with a shot of the Iraqi liquor, Arak. That we'll call a BarackArak and Tan.

ObFo: Are you expecting utter madness for the Inauguration, as the media is predicting? Are distant pals suddenly calling to stay at your place?
SCS: Yes, it will be a worldwide Barackanalia, with the epicenter right down the street. To paraphrase a friend of mine, it's like your city's sports teams won the World Series, the Little League World Series, the Super Bowl, the Powder Puff World Championships, and The Ashes in the same year. I'm hearing from family I didn't even know existed - who knew there were Chapple-Sokols in New Ulm, Minnesota?

ObFo: Any insight about people crashing Inaugural Balls—personally, or amongst your friends?

SCS: I can't really comment on so-called "Ball Crashers." The whole working-for-the-government thing makes breaching secure events much less attractive.

ObFo: Yesterday, your City Council voted to change all liquor laws for the Inauguration. Thoughts?
SCS: Seems pretty ridiculous to me, but hey, the city's going all out in allowing residents and business owners to make as much as they can for that week (relaxing leasing laws, issuing special vendor permits, etc), and if that includes us being allowed to ruin our livers 24/5, so be it!

ObFo: You're staying on with your "day job," right? Future plans--inside or outside beer world--?
SCS: No comment. Though since I do work in the same building as many of The Transition officials, I'd love to just happen to bump into Mr. Obama and hand him a frosty cold beer. Somehow I don't think it would fly.

*We pretty sure, by the way, that Chapple-Sokol invented the term “Barackanalia,” our new fave word. *The Audacity of Hops label created by Drew Art Carlisle. *Beer pics courtesy of Sam Chapple-Sokol.