The Audacity of Hops

He played it safe and sad. President Obama picked Bud Light, that watery, insipid, largely tasteless, tinny amalgam owned by Belgians, run by Brazilians and favored by your uncle, for his Thursday White House sit-down with Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge, Mass., sergeant James Crowley.

Sigh. There were so many more—so many more—great American beers that the president could’ve chosen. But, as with these things, he had to consider the politics: “He’s trying to send a message that he’s an average American and these are two other average Americans,” Matt Mackiowack, a Republican strategist, told Bloomberg News. “If you complicate that by making an exotic choice, or an import, or too expensive, you can be too cute by half.”

What makes it truly disappointing is Mr. Obama is the first president since perhaps Jerry Ford to make beer a conspicuous part of his White House—and good, solid beer, at that. Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush were allegedly teetotalers. Bill Clinton drank anything. Ronald Reagan seemed a Chablis and Reunite on Ice guy (it was the ’80s). And George H. W. Bush was one tall martini after tennis.

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has been unabashed about beer, starting during his campaign. Sarah Palin may have called down the electoral wrath of Joe Six-Pack (who, incidentally, didn’t seem to care for the former governor much), but it was the then-Illinois Senator who dove right in—at the cheap, salt-of-the-earth end.

“You know, it’s funny—several months ago, when Barack Obama was in a beer bar and ordered a beer, what did he order? He ordered P.B.R. He got to it first,” Julie Johnson, the editor of All About Beer magazine, told The Observer in October. “I haven’t seen Sarah Palin actually drink street-cred beer.”

But Mr. Obama reportedly went a bit upscale at a Fourth of July picnic at the White House, selecting Stoudt’s American Pale Ale—emphasis on the American—brewed in Adamstown, Penn. The man has a sharp palate: American pale ales are light and refreshing, usually with deep citrus flavors and smooth aftertastes, perfect for excruciating summer heat in places like D.C.

Why couldn’t the commander in yeast choose something akin in quality and origin for his Gates-Crowley sit-down? Might I suggest a local recipe straight out of a Boston area brewpub. Or a Sam Adams brewed by the Boston Beer Company and named after a presidential cousin. And on and on…

Instead, he chose Bud Light by Anheuser-Busch, which, despite still being perfectly profitable, flung itself last summer into the arms of InBev, the giant concern controlled by Belgian aristocrats and run by Brazilian executives. This Bud’s for you? More like this Bud’s for King Albert. Hah. 

Though, we will forgive Mr. Obama his choice. Politics, you see. And, for the fact that he has revived a beloved presidential consumption. George Washington, Mr. Obama’s predecessor 43 times removed, after all, brewed huge amounts of ale annually at his Mount Vernon estate—and even crafted his own beer recipe, which survives at the New York Public Library. Now that would be something for the next White House hoist.

The Audacity of Hops