Wednesday, September 19, 2012

President Obama Talks White House Homebrewed Beer With David Letterman

The President discusses the origins of the historic homebrew operation, and jokes that he'll be starting a microbrewery if "this Presidency thing doesn't work out"...
President Obama hailed the White House beer as "tasty stuff" on Tuesday night as he gave an account of the history of the special homebrewing operation to David Letterman, and joked that he might even be starting a microbrewery if "this Presidency thing doesn't work out." The President was making his second visit to the Late Show since taking office, and his seventh visit overall. He entered to a standing ovation.

Seated at his desk in the Ed Sullivan Theater, Letterman introduced the sudsy topic, asking "Is it true you're making beer in the White House?"

"It is true," the President responded. "This is some tasty beer." But he answered "I don't know" when Letterman asked if it is legal to homebrew.

"We started making it and then somebody said do we need a license for this?" President Obama said.

Homebrewing is indeed legal in The District, and the President's chefs are the first in history to make beer at the White House. They have produced three kinds since starting in 2011: White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Porter, and White House Honey Blonde Ale. The beer was first served to guests at the President's Super Bowl party in 2011, and the Sept. 1 release of the recipes for the Honey Porter and the Honey Ale caused international headlines. (The Honey Ale, above)

The President joked around when Letterman asked how much beer is actually being brewed.

"We just had a big project to dig a whole infrastructure under the White House--so that's top secret," the President said, to laughter, as he implied the brewing is a massive undertaking.

The White House's "Big Dig" lasted close to two years, and was just completed. A video the White House released about the hombrewing operation shows a "Beer Room" deep underground, where batches of beer ferment in glass carboys, under lock and key.

"We make a few bottles for events when people come over to the White House," President Obama said. "This is some tasty beer."

The President credited an abundance of honey from the first-ever White House beehive as part of the reason the beer project got started: Each batch of beer uses a pound of honey. The hive is beside First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden, the President told Letterman. It's overseen by former White House carpenter Charlie Brandts, a three-decade employee who retired earlier this year, but who still works as the chief beekeeper. As a side note, Brandts is also a homebrewer (above, with the hive).

The President said the hive is not very big--he demonstrated a small box with his hands--but "it ended up generating 150 pounds of honey."

"So we're putting honey in jars and giving it out as gifts, it's good stuff," President Obama said. "So then you got another guy in the [Navy] Mess who says 'I'm an amateur brewer.'"

"We're always open to new ideas, and he said 'I think I can make some beer with this honey," President Obama said. "And he made a few bottles, and it's tasty stuff."

In the White House beer video, assistant chef Sam Kass credited Navy Mess chef Matt Slattery with the brewing; the recipes were embroidered on from those provided by another local brewer, Kass said. The White House recipes each make five-gallon batches.

"So now we got a little operation going there," President Obama said.

"And if this Presidency thing doesn't work out, we got a little microbrewery thing going on."

The beehive this year produced 175 pounds of honey, down from the very large 2011 harvest of 225 pounds. In 2009, the hive produced 143 pounds, and in 2010 it produced 184 pounds.

Letterman was introduced at the start of the show as beer: "And now, made from the best hops, barley yeast and water...David Letterman!" said the show's announcer as the comic took the stage for his monologue. He joked that seats for the taping in the Ed Sullivan Theater were $50,000 each, a reference to the President's pricey fundraisers. Watch the full show here.

The President's beery interlude was a light segment in an interview that included discussing Mitt Romney, the crisis in Libya, the national debt and the election.

After taping the Letterman interview, the President attended two fundraisers in New York City, dropping more than $4 million into his war chest at the second event, which was hosted by superstar Beyoncé and her rap mogul husband Jay-Z, who owns the lavish 40/40 Club in downtown New York City.

The White House beer video:

*CLICK HERE for all posts about White House brewing.

*Letterman photos by David Letterman/Worldwide Pants/CBS; beer photo by Pete Souza/White House; Brandts photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama