Video: President Obama has a 'White House Beer Room' & other secrets about Presidential homebrewing revealed...
As President Obama kicked off his Road to Charlotte campaign tour on Saturday, the White House released its much-anticipated recipe for White House Honey Ale, fulfilling the President's Reddit chat promise that the recipe "will be out very soon!"
As a special bonus, the White House also released the recipe for White House Honey Porter. Assistant chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass unveiled the recipes with a post on the White House blog, joking "with public excitement about White House beer fermenting such a buzz, we decided we better hop right to it." The White House also released a behind-the-scenes video showing the Presidential brew process, narrated by Kass (above, quaffing some of the brew).
"Brewing beer is something Americans are doing in their homes and garages across the country, and the President certainly thought it would be a great idea to see if we could join the American people in that time-honored tradition and brew some of our own beer," Kass says in the video.
A White House aide told Obama Foodorama that it's Kass who is responsible for keeping the President's Ground Force One tour bus stocked with homebrew, news that kicked off the current mania over the recipe release.
Download a printable PDF of both recipes.
In the video, Kass explains the brewing process and also leads viewers on a tour of the White House Beer Room, deep underground, noting onscreen "I'm not sure if any camera has been down here before."
The White House recipes are embroideries on a recipe from a local brew master, Kass says onscreen, and chef Matt Slattery of the White House's Navy Mess and Beekeeper in Chief Charlie Brandts, who also homebrews, provided brewing tips (honey from the White House beehive is used for both recipes). One of the chefs who is actually doing the brewing is at last identified, thanks to appearing in the video: Sous Chef Tafari Campbell, a long-time vet of the White House kitchen.
The unveiling of the recipes is a response to not only "public excitement" but also to international headlines, and can be credited to the first-ever recipe-release petition on the Administration's 'We the People' site, created by DC resident John Lutz, and pushed on Twitter with the D.C. Homebrewers Club's #OperationBrewBama. The petition had 12,240 signatures out of a needed 25,000 when the White House posted the recipes today. There was also a Freedom of Information Act request for the recipe, filed by Brody Burks, the assistant district attorney of Limestone County, Texas (posted on Reddit). (Above: The Honey Ale)
The White House homebrewing--with equipment paid for by President Obama--follows on the heels of many past Presidential experiments with fermenting and distilling, Kass notes in the video, saying that it has "become an amazing new tradition at the White House." He points out that President George Washington (who never lived in the White House) had a whiskey distillery and brewed beer at his farm-estate Mount Vernon, while President Thomas Jefferson grew grapes in order to make wine at his plantation home, Monticello.
"We asked the curators is there any history of brewing or distilling here at the White House," Kass says in the video. "And so they looked. And it turns out that there was some evidence of drinking during Prohibition, but beyond that there was no evidence that any beer or liquor has been brewed or distilled."
For the record, it was Obama Foodorama who asked those crucial questions waaay back in February of 2011 after the President first served homebrewed Honey Ale at his Super Bowl party. It was in response to my queries that White House Curator William Allman went through decades of documents to check if homebrewing had gone on at the White House before the Obamas moved in. White House aides at the time were unaware--and unconcerned, to be quite frank--that the chefs had embarked on an historic food initiative after two centuries of White House occupancy.
Bee keeper Brandts appears in the video; the bee hive he oversees, located beside First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn, is also a first for the White House. A pound of honey is called for in both White House recipes.
"Like many home brewers who add secret ingredients to make their beer unique, all of our brews have honey that we tapped from the first ever bee-hive on the South Lawn," Kass wrote in his blog post.
"The honey gives the beer a rich aroma and a nice finish but it doesn't sweeten it."
The chefs have also created White House Honey Blonde Ale, which President Obama served to Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer on the eve of his White House ceremony. The private beer summit came at the request of the former Marine Sergeant, then age 23.
At the White House, the chefs use standard-sized 12 ounce long neck bottles of brown glass. They also bench cap the bottles. The labels for the Presidential brew were designed by the White House graphics shop.
The recipe for White House Honey Ale:
In 'Ale to the Chief,' Kass wrote on the White House blog:
"With public excitement about White House beer fermenting such a buzz, we decided we better hop right to it.
Inspired by home brewers from across the country, last year President Obama bought a home brewing kit for the kitchen. After the few first drafts we landed on some great recipes that came from a local brew shop. We received some tips from a couple of home brewers who work in the White House who helped us amend it and make it our own. To be honest, we were surprised that the beer turned out so well since none of us had brewed beer before.
As far as we know the White House Honey Brown Ale is the first alcohol brewed or distilled on the White House grounds. George Washington brewed beer and distilled whiskey at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson made wine but there's no evidence that any beer has been brewed in the White House. (Although we do know there was some drinking during prohibition…)
Since our first batch of White House Honey Brown Ale, we've added the Honey Porter and have gone even further to add a Honey Blonde this past summer. Like many home brewers who add secret ingredients to make their beer unique, all of our brews have honey that we tapped from the first ever bee-hive on the South Lawn. The honey gives the beer a rich aroma and a nice finish but it doesn't sweeten it.
If you want a behind the scenes look at our home-brewing process, this video offers some proof."
The recipe for White House Honey Porter:
Related: Brad Magerkurth, aka 'The Beer Guy,' is the fellow President Obama gifted with a bottle of homebrew during a campaign stop in Iowa in mid-August. Magerkurth still hasn't sampled his brew, but he's dished all the details of his private Presidential beer summit.
The last time the White House issued an official response to a food-related petition was January of 2012, when Doug McKalip of the White House Rural Council/Domestic Policy Council responded to a petition about raw milk sales.
*Beer photo by Pete Souza/White House; White House video