Finally, after much prodding and criticism, the President has seen fit to release the White House beer recipes. Obama’s beers: 2. Romney’s tax returns: 1.
As an amateur brewer, writer, and judge of some repute in a past life, I feel obligated to offer commentary on this release. First, these are a politician’s beers, designed to be accessible to most tastes. Likewise, with minimal investment in kit, anybody who can warm up a can of Campbells Tomato Soup on their stove can make these beers.
As beers made from extracts, they’re starter recipes, and in my experience it’s rare (though not impossible, both from personal experience and beers I’ve judged) to make a professional-grade beer from extracts. While I appreciate the need to be approachable in both taste and process, c’mon man! You have the resources (and credit) of the Federal Government at your disposal. You have ten Nimitz class carriers and the old USS Enterprise to hand. Why brew a frigate? Kick it out a bit, and set up a proper home brewery! The use of dry yeasts would have likewise normally bothered me, but last weekend while hanging out in Northern Virginia / DC with some brewing friends, old and new, I’ve learned that dry yeasts have made great strides in quality and cell count since I was active. Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as brought to my attention six months ago, according to an extensive thread concerning my one recipe that stubbornly remains famous after all these years, it was designed in “the dark ages” (and yet they still love and brew the damned thing). Finally, if at all possible (and there’s probably the odd spare fridge available in the White House somewhere), don’t ferment at room temperature. Hook up an external thermostat, and ferment your ales at a consistent 65F, give or take. Consistency in temperature is more important than the precise level.
Also interesting from a political perspective is the reliance on two yeasts of English lineage, and hops of both English and continental origin. There’s not an American yeast cell or hop in sight. The Republicans could use that in some nefarious way, but they’d have to tell the truth about it, which would strain their strategy.
As for the beers, the honey ale is, well, enjoyable by anybody, possibly even the Republican nominee. I like the use of bisquit malt, the use of both Fuggles and EKGs in hopping (though please use whole hops, especially for flavor / aroma, and not pellets), and the Windsor yeast strain is known for being estery, offering some character.
The porter is more promising. Nice variety of malts (though I’d ease off the 20 degree crystal in favor of more black, chocolate, and brown malts), good yeast selection, bittering hop subtle enough to not distract from what should be a malty-ish beer. Nobody should use HBUs as a measure, but again, accessibility. And as the bittering hop was unspecified, this is where the porter can be made American. Any hop starting with a “C” will suffice.
Of course, the signature aspect of these recipes is the locally harvested honey. And by local, look to the left of the picture above that I took last Friday. Honey does little for beer beyond adding fermentable sugars and precious little added flavor. Good meads, on the other hand, are a different thing entirely, and at one BBQ in Virginia last week I had brought out a 1994 and a 2000 vintage straight mead of mine, which the host matched with some of his own stock. But in a beer, it attenuates the assertiveness of the flavor profile, replacing it with accessible alcohol. Yet, that the White House staff are making their own honey, and brewing with it on premises, is inherently cool.
As much as my vote was in doubt, that the President is brewing training wheel beers in his basement tipped me over the edge. I’ll add my vote to Obama’s column in the critical swing state of Oregon.
Which apparently has a university, with a football team, one capable of scoring touchdowns against Arkansas State. Go Rob and Eirk.