An historic beer for Medal of Honor hero; President calls the former Marine "a down-to- Earth guy" whose story "will be told for generations"...
UPDATE, Aug. 2012: CLICK HERE for the latest on WH beer
President Obama quaffed beer with 23-year-old Dakota Meyer on Wednesday (above), a day ahead of presenting the former Marine Sergeant with the Medal of Honor on Thursday, for saving the lives of 36 comrades during a harrowing firefight with Taliban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan in September of 2009. Turns out the beers were one of the special homebrews the White House chefs have been making since last January, a White House spokesman told Obama Foodorama. The President served Meyer White House Honey Blonde Ale, made with honey from the Beehive that sits near First Lady Obama's Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn. (Above: A bottle of the very first homebrew created by the White House chefs, White House Honey Ale)
The beer outing on the Oval Office patio was at Meyer's request, President Obama explained during the Medal ceremony in the East Room, and came as he alerted Meyer by phone that he would receive the Medal of Honor. It's a moment that's also notable in the history of food: The Obamas' chefs are the first to ever homebrew at the White House, according to curator William Allman, as first reported here on Obama Foodorama. Only special guests have sampled White House homebrew.
Of course that's something the young war hero didn't know when he requested a beer with the Commander in Chief--whose phone call Meyer initially declined to take. At work in a new construction job, Meyer asked White House aides to have the President call him back during his lunch break.
"He felt he couldn’t take the call right then, because he said, 'If I don’t work, I don’t get paid,'” President Obama said. "I told him the news, and then he went right back to work. That’s the kind of guy he is. He also asked to have a beer with me, which we were able to execute yesterday."
Raised in rural Kentucky, Meyer is the third living recipient--and the first Marine--to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. President Obama described Meyer as "one of the most down-to-Earth guys that you will ever meet" before telling the incredible story of how Meyer saved his fellow troops.
White House aides always ask guests about their food preferences, and CBS reported that Meyer requested Bud Light for his Presidential moment. He was served a beer that is far more special.
A brief history of White House homebrew...
The White House chefs are homebrew enthusiasts, and have created a number of different editions of beer, all using honey from the Beehive, the first to ever be on the White House grounds. The very first batch that was served at an event, White House Honey Ale, was created last February for President Obama's Super Bowl party. "90 to 100" 12-ounce bottles were served, made with about a pound of honey. The chefs later created White House Honey Blonde Ale and White House Honey Porter. The Beehive is overseen by Beekeeper Charlie Brandts, and this year produced the most honey since first being installed in 2009: 254 pounds. (Above: A detail of the label for the first brew; the label was created by the White House, and reads "Brewed With White House Honey")
The Honey Porter and the Honey Blonde were first created in June.
"We just tasted the Honey Porter yesterday, which was unbelievably good, if I do say so myself," Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives and assistant chef Sam Kass (l) said during an event celebrating Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business list (Kass was #11 on the list).
Kass was speaking to Sam Calagione, owner and founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware, who also appeared on the list.
"We have no idea what we're doing--we're just experimenting, so anytime you want to come for a visit and give us some pointers, we'd be more than happy," Kass told Calagione. Calagione took Kass up on the offer.
In June, Goose Island owner and chief brewer Greg Hall of Chicago also visited Kass to give some sudsy pointers, and he praised the White House beer on Twitter.
"Today I tried Sam Kass' Honey Blonde and Honey Porter homebrews in the White House kitchen, showed the WH honey very nicely, bravo Sam," Hall tweeted (sic).
For the record, despite what other media outlets have reported, the President and Mrs. Obama did NOT serve White House homebrew at their St. Patrick's Day reception in March, according to an East Wing spokesman. The St. Paddy's homebrew myth originated in Irish media, and was picked up by US outlets. The myth is still being repeated today as fact.
The Obamas paid for the brewing equipment with their own funds, an aide told Obama Foodorama, spending about $200 for the set up.
The Medal of Honor Ceremony...
Meyer's Medal of Honor citation is here. He is one of the youngest Medal of Honor recipients in decades. (Above: The President places the Medal around Meyer's neck)
"In Sergeant Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation that has served through a decade of war," President Obama said, adding that Meyer's story “will be told for generations."
The video of the ceremony:
*Photos by Pete Souza/White House, except for Kass photo, by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama. Updated.