Thursday, October 18, 2012

Praise For White House Homebrewed Beer Recipe

Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass is quite happy that The New York Times has published an excellent review of beer created from the recipe for White House Honey Ale, first released to a thirsty America on Sept. 1.  Garrett Oliver, the brew master at New York's The Brooklyn Brewery, has chronicled his experience making President Obama's favorite beverage for the paper's Diner's Journal, which this week hailed it as "very good," citing the brew for its "character" and calling it "a people's beer that ought to please a wide spectrum of drinkers, from novices to aficionados."  (Above: Oliver with his replicale)

"It's pretty amazing," Kass told Obama Foodorama, laughing, when asked if he'd seen the review.

The President himself has described the homebrew as "some tasty beer."  Kass personally unveiled the recipe for Honey Ale and also for White House Honey Porter, appearing in a video that showed the brewing going on in the White House kitchen.

Oliver brewed his replicale on Friday, Sept. 14, and joined by NYT food writer Eric Asimov, tested his efforts a little earlier than the recipe specifies.  The Honey Ale recipe calls for 5-6 weeks of fermenting after brewing, and the two sampled their beer about a month after Oliver got to work. "Mr. Oliver had expressed concern that the beer might not be ready, but our patience had reached its limit," Asimov wrote.

Happily, the beer was delicious, Asimov said in his detailed recap: 

"The aromas were floral with a touch of orange and a metallic note that I sometimes find in honey."On the palate, it was breezy, fresh, tangy and lightly bitter, not bone dry but not at all sweet. I could sense the honey in the round, rich texture of the beer: thickness without weight, like a chenin blanc wine. The soft carbonation enhanced the texture. It didn’t have the insistent rush of bubbles that you would find in a mass-produced beer, or the snappy twang of a pilsner, but rather the soft fizz of a British hand-cranked cask ale.

In the end, the White House beer is easy drinking at 4.89 percent alcohol. It is rich, round and not terribly bitter. It’s a people’s beer that ought to please a wide spectrum of drinkers, from novices to aficionados."

The White House recipe calls for a pound of honey from the first-ever bee hive that sits on the South Lawn of the White House grounds beside First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden.  Oliver's beer was made with honey that he hoped would replicate that made by the Presidential bees:  "Mr. Oliver said a request to the White House for a jar of its own honey went unanswered, so he used local wildflower honey, thinking that White House bees would have little motivation to rove beyond the flowers on the grounds," Asimov wrote.

Actually, the White House bees range as far away as the Tidal Basin on the National Mall, and feast on the Cherry Blossoms each spring, according to Beekeeper in Chief Charlie Brandts.

Kass noted when releasing the beer recipes that the White house honey does not actually sweeten the brews.

"The honey gives the beer a rich aroma and a nice finish but it doesn't sweeten it," Kass said.

Honey issues aside, Oliver loved his replicale.

"It has character, but it’s also crowd-pleasing," Oliver said.  "It’s a politically friendly beer in that regard, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for?"

The Obamas' chefs are the first in history to homebrew at the White House, as first reported by Obama Foodorama.

In the weeks since the recipe was released, President Obama has twice discussed it on national talk shows, and presented The View's Barbara Walters with two bottles as a birthday gift.  The President also gifted  a case of homebrew to firefighters in Norfolk, Virginia and asked for a review.  Thanks to Kass, President's Ground Force One tour bus is stocked with homebrew.  That news kicked off the national mania over the recipe release, which included a petition on the White House website.

"This is some tasty beer," President Obama told David Letterman on Sept. 18. "If this Presidency thing doesn't work out, we got a little microbrewery thing going on."

The White House beer video:

*Photo by Kirsten Luce for The New York Times