The single bottle of White House Honey Ale that President Obama presented to Minnesota resident Brad Magerkurth last August has fetched $1,200 at auction, a price usually reserved for rare wines. The President gifted Magerkurth with the bottle during an off-the-record stop at the Coffee Connection in Knoxville, Iowa while on a campaign bus tour through the crucial swing state. (Above: This previously unpublished White House photo of Magerkurth reacting to the President's gift is included in the White House's 2012 Year in Photos)
Magerkurth, 42, a homebrewer and traveling salesman for Artisan Beer Company in the Twin Cities, just happened to be in Knoxville on August 14th for a sales call when the President rolled into the tiny town aboard Ground Force One. The conversation naturally turned to beer when the President stopped by Magerkurth's table to shake hands, and soon an aide had retrieved a bottle of White House beer from Ground Force One.
After weeks of debate--with plenty of pals urging him to flat-out sell the beer--Magerkurth finally decided to use his gift to raise money for a charity that's close to his heart, he told Obama Foodorama. That way, Magerkurth said, his gift could be shared with fellow beer enthusiasts as well as be put to good use. Known to friends and business associates alike as "The Beer Guy," Magerkurth firmly believes that "beer unites people." His bottle of Presidentiale was auctioned off during Taste!, a food and drink festival at University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis during the weekend of Sept. 28.
Ten people paid a total of $1,200 to share the 12-ounce bottle, with the proceeds going to the University's Amplatz Children's Hospital. The moment was ripe with ceremony, with a big crowd gathered around a stage in the stadium to watch as the plain brown long neck--unlabeled, because it was from the President's own private supply--was opened.
"The University of Minnesota marching band played Hail to the Chief, and then we cracked open the beer," Magerkurth said. "We all shared it on the stage."
"I was pretty ecstatic," Magerkurth said. "For someone in the beer industry, it's about the coolest thing in the world."
President asks for a brew review...
President Obama had one caveat with his gift: He asked Magerkurth for a critique of the beer. The President's White House chefs are the first in history to homebrew at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Beer Drinker in Chief wanted an outsider's opinion of the stuff. As he handed over the bottle, Magerkurth recalled, the President said "here, try this beer. I'd love to get a review on it. I'd love to hear what you think.'"
So how did it taste?
"I thought it was very good," Magerkurth said. "And everyone else thought so too."
Thanks to the use of a pound of honey from the White House beehive in the recipe, "we were expecting it to be a little more cloyingly sweet," Magerkurth said. "No. It was hoppy and dry, really good."
He added that he was particularly impressed that the beer was made in the White House kitchen: "All kinds of things can happen when you're brewing at home."
"Lots can go wrong when non-professionals make beer," Magerkurth said, laughing. "And as far as cool factor? Dude, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Still, Magerkurth hasn't yet submitted his formal beer review to President Obama, though he still has the White House business card given to him by aide Eugene Kang. The weeks before Thanksgiving and through New Year's are crazy for beer professionals, Magerkurth said, and he's just now recovering from the busy holiday season.
2012 was the sudsiest year of the President's first term...
Making things more exciting for Magerkurth: He holds a unique place in the Obama beerology. Since 2009's White House "Beer Summit," President Obama has had plenty of foamy moments, but 2012 was the sudsiest year of his first term in office.
Not only did the President fuel his reelection campaign by sharing cold ones with prospective voters around the US, but he devoted plenty of time to touting his own homebrew after the meeting with Magerkurth made international headlines. Up to that point, no-one outside the White House knew that the beer-loving President was rolling with his own homebrew stocked on his highly secure bus. (Above: President Obama raises a pint during an October stop in New Hampshire)
That sudsy factoid re-ignited public demand for the top-secret White House recipes, and a little more than two weeks later, following a 'We the People' petition on the White House website and a Freedom of Information Act request--and loads more headlines--the White House unveiled not one but two beer recipes on Sept. 1, sharing the details for White House Honey Ale and White House Honey Porter.
In the months since September, the official video released with the recipes, narrated by Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass, became the most-viewed video ever released about the adventures of the White House chefs, as well as one of the most popular posts on the White House blog in 2012 ( the video now has 552,974 views on the White House YouTube channel. Brewers across the nation--professional and amateur--have made the brew, giving it high marks. Northern Brewer, an online and brick and mortar beer supply shop, has sold more than 2,000 of the two different homebrew kits they released for the recipes in September, according to spokesman Chip Walton.
The President also chatted about the White House beer on Late Show with David Letterman, and presented Barbara Walters with three birthday bottles during an appearance on The View. He also gave firefighters at Fire Station #14 in Norfolk, Virginia an entire mixed case of his beer. Most recently, in late November, the President included bottles of beer in swag bags for small business owners visiting the White House to discuss the tax legislation that ultimately became the fiscal cliff deal.
Homebrewed beer was even included in the President's back-up plan if he failed to win a second term.
"If this Presidency thing doesn't work out, we got a little microbrewery thing going on," President Obama joked to Letterman.
President Obama will now have to wait four more years for that second career, but his White House chefs are continuing brewing, of course. And in the meantime, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is selling pint glasses with the inaugural seal to celebrate the inauguration on Monday, Jan. 21.
As for Magerkurth: He has his own special Obama keepsakes. The empty bottle of auctioned White House Honey Ale and the bottle cap are now in the "curio cabinet" at Artisan beer Company, he said.
"One small step for man, one large step for beer man," Magerkurth joked.
Above, Magerkurth holds his gift bottle of beer aloft at Coffee Connection, minutes after the President gave it to him; the President is visible shaking hands outside the window.
*CLICK HERE for all posts about White House beer.
*Top photo and Honey Ale photo by Pete Souza/White House. Goal post and Coffee Connection photo courtesy Brad Magerkurth.
In the 2012 Year in Photos caption, Souza wrote: "How about a White House beer? The President was greeting patrons at Coffee Connection in Knoxville, Iowa, when this customer asked him about the White House beer. The President said he thought he might have some on his campaign bus and asked an aide to check. A few minutes later, the President delivered a bottle and the customer reacted in celebration."