Beer Brewing: A Presidential Tradition
Home-brewing enjoys an amazingly long history, going back thousands of years. What’s more, it wasn’t just the common folk who brewed their own beer. In fact, quite a few of our very own Founding Fathers and presidents were home brewers, and several others held beer in an incredibly high regard. Who brewed their own beer?
The nation’s first president most definitely brewed his own beer, as evidenced by his own recipe discovered in one of his notebooks. The brew has been recreated a couple of times, but it’s not something that you’d find on the shelf, or even available from many craft breweries. Low in alcohol and barely carbonated, it was more of a replacement for potentially contaminated drinking water than what we’re accustomed to today.
Thomas Jefferson was one of the greatest minds of his time, and that mind was often turned toward beer. His wife Martha handled the brewing while he was president, but when he retired, Jefferson built a brand new brew house at Monticello (his home in Virginia). Notably, Jefferson preferred a hoppier ale than the heavy, dark brews that were popular at the time (stouts and porters). He was also a proponent of beer over whiskey, as he saw it as far healthier and with less chance of alcoholism.
Our nation’s fourth president was also a home-brewer, and was actually instrumental in not only protecting beer, but in promoting brewing itself. It was Madison that suggested taxing imported beers that were becoming more popular with citizens, and for helping to spur the nation’s burgeoning brewing industry (which would take a very hard knock when Prohibition rolled around in the 20th century).
The great Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served for more than 12 years as president, was himself a confirmed home-brewer. He was responsible for ending Prohibition after 14 bleak, dry years, before his untimely death.
If there’s a president who had a greater impact on beer in the US than FDR, it was Jimmy Carter. It was his decision to make home-brewing legal once more. His bill also allowed home-brewed beer to be exempt from taxes (imagine having to pay the government for the right to brew your own beer at home).
While President Obama himself might not be a home-brewer, he was responsible for the first beer ever brewed in the White House. It was created by Sam Kass, the Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives. Both the Whitehouse’s Honey Porter and Honey Ale have made their way into recipe books and home-brew kits today. If you’re interested in brewing them yourself and already have all the equipment needed, you’ll find both recipes listed on the White House blog. Given the number of Founding Fathers and presidents who’ve been not only involved in brewing beer at home, but instrumental in protecting this art and promoting it throughout the country, home brewers are in some very good company.
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