• Taste Testing the Beer From the White House

    After a request to release the recipe to the public for a home brew made by White House, the Obama administration published it on Sept. 1, 2012.

    White House Honey Ale, a beer brewed by the chefs at the White House, grabbed the national spotlight over the summer when President Barack Obama was seen drinking the brew, touting that he travels with bottles of it ready to open on his campaign bus.  At one stop, he even gave a bottle to a supporter.

    When its recipe was released, brewers at Brooklyn Brewery started brewing their own batch of the beer. The brew was ready to be tasted on Monday, and New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov was on hand for the tasting.


    The president said the beer was good. Was it? The Dining section truth squad leaped into action, enlisting Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, to make a batch to assess.


    After steeping, boiling, cooling, fermenting and settling, Mr. Oliver stowed away 38 750-milliliter corked bottles to mature in a conditioning room kept at 77 degrees. One month later, the beer was ready to be tasted. On Monday, Mr. Oliver and I uncorked one chilled bottle.


    Mr. Oliver had expressed concern that the beer might not be ready, but our patience had reached its limit. The potential problem? Brewers carbonate most mass-market beers by injecting them with carbon dioxide, but home brewers generally rely on the ancient technique of initiating a small second fermentation in the bottle before capping it. With nowhere to escape, the carbon dioxide produced by this fermentation turns into the bubbles that animate the beer.


    If the second fermentation had gone wrong, or simply wasn’t finished, we’d know. The uncorking would be accompanied by a wimpy sigh, or worse, silence. We hoped for the best as Mr. Oliver removed the wire cage imprisoning the cork. He pulled it out, and with it came a stately, resounding pop.


    “Ladies and gentlemen, we have beer,” he said.


    Methodically, he filled a couple of goblets. The beer poured out a lovely auburn brown with touches of red glinting in the midday sunlight. It was hazy, indicating that dead yeast cells had not completed their journey downward to the bottom of the bottle. A rocky head of foam was textured and held its form nicely. We drank, tentatively at first, then deeply.

    So how was the beer?

    The verdict: It was good. Very good.


    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.


    “It’s not without complexity,” Mr. Oliver said, “and it’s an interesting, broad sort of bitterness, a British type of bitterness, which fits the sort of hops they used.”


    The White House brewers chose classic British hops, Kent Goldings and Fuggles, which yield a gentle, more generalized sort of bitterness than the sharper grapefruit and pine of American hops familiar in American craft beers. They had taken another British-style step, adding mineral salts to the water, a process intended to mimic the famous waters of Burton-on-Trent, a British town renowned for its brewing heritage. Burtonizing is a long American tradition as well. Mr. Oliver has found advertisements in century-old brewing magazines for the American Burtonizing Company in New York.


    For me, the biggest surprise was how powerfully the honey influenced the beer in almost every aspect — texture, aroma, flavor — except sweetness. It was a reminder of how extraordinary honey can be both as an ingredient and as a reflection of its particular origins.

    The secret ingredient in the beer, of course, is the the honey made on the grounds of the white house.  This ensures that no matter how close a brewer comes to duplicating the recipe it could never be exact without that key ingredient.

    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.


    In analyzing the beer as it was brewed, Mr. Oliver was surprised by how much sugar went unfermented and feared it might be a tad sweet. He pondered whether, on a second try, he would take steps to make the beer drier.


    “Now that I’ve tasted it, I don’t think I would,” he said. “It’s perfectly balanced.”

    This beer, while good at a young age, is predicted to age well, but should most likely be enjoyed fresh.

    The beer is still young. With time, the yeast particles should settle, clarifying the brew, and Mr. Oliver suggested it might carbonate a little more. Six months from now, it might develop some nutty, sherry-like characteristics as the beer begins to oxidize. Aside from curiosity, I’d prefer to drink it fresh.


    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.


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


  • Presidential Beer to Soon Be Available from Commercial Breweries and in Kits for Home Brewers


     It has been interesting watching this story develop of the past few weeks.  It has gone from a petition to get the recipe to the recipe being released to now, the beer is being made.  First up is a commercial brewery that is going to make the beer.

    At least one Utah brewery plans to pour the White House beer from its taps before Election Day in a nod to President Barack Obama’s signature home brew.


    “We’re going to call it El Presidente Honey Ale,” says Greg Schirf, Wasatch Brewing founder and head of the Utah Brewers Cooperative that makes Wasatch and Squatters beer.

    Schirf, whose company bottles Polygamy Porter, Brigham’s Brew (a nod to LDS Church prophet Brigham Young) and Provo Girl Pilsner, says the White House beer is just the right fit for his brewery and he wants to get it flowing at their pubs in Salt Lake City and Park City soon.


    “We’re definitely going to do it,” Schirf said. “We just think it’s really fun. We think it’s terrific that we have a president who is not just a beer drinker but a beer maker.”


    Wasatch and Squatters are likely to find instant consumers in Utah’s Democrats.


    Glenn Wright, chairman of the Summit County Democrats, enjoys craft beers. If you couple that with his support for Obama, he may find a locally produced version of the White House Honey Ale irresistible.


    “I’d buy it just because it came from the White House … this White House,” he said.


    And of course, if you want to brew the beer yourself, Northern Brewer has a kit for sale with all the ingredients you need.  The kit ranges from $31.75 – $36.99 depending on the options chosen. The kit can be found here:


    Source: http://www.sltrib.com/

  • White House Releases its Home Brew Recipe

    If you want to drink the same brew the President drinks, you now can.  The White House has finally released the recipe to the public.


    With public excitement about White House beer fermenting such a buzz, we decided we better hop right to it.


    Inspired by home brewers from across the country, last year President Obama bought a home brewing kit for the kitchen. After the few first drafts we landed on some great recipes that came from a local brew shop. We received some tips from a couple of home brewers who work in the White House who helped us amend it and make it our own. To be honest, we were surprised that the beer turned out so well since none of us had brewed beer before.


    As far as we know the White House Honey Brown Ale is the first alcohol brewed or distilled on the White House grounds. George Washington brewed beer and distilled whiskey at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson made wine but there’s no evidence that any beer has been brewed in the White House. (Although we do know there was some drinking during prohibition…)


    Since our first batch of White House Honey Brown Ale, we’ve added the Honey Porter and have gone even further to add a Honey Blonde this past summer. Like many home brewers who add secret ingredients to make their beer unique, all of our brews have honey that we tapped from the first ever bee-hive on the South Lawn. The honey gives the beer a rich aroma and a nice finish but it doesn’t sweeten it.


    If you want a behind the scenes look at our home-brewing process, this video offers some proof.


    Download a printable PDF of both recipes.



    • 2 (3.3 lb) cans light unhopped malt extract
    • 3/4 lb Munich Malt (cracked)
    • 1 lb crystal 20 malt (cracked)
    • 6 oz black malt (cracked)
    • 3 oz chocolate malt (cracked)
    • 1 lb White House Honey
    • 10 HBUs bittering hops
    • 1/2 oz Hallertaur Aroma hops
    • 1 pkg Nottingham dry yeast
    • 3/4 cup corn sugar for bottling


    1. In a 6 qt pot, add grains to 2.25 qts of 168˚ water. Mix well to bring temp down to 155˚. Steep on stovetop at 155˚ for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 2 gallons of water to 165˚ in a 12 qt pot. Place strainer over, then pour and spoon all the grains and liquid in. Rinse with 2 gallons of 165˚ water. Let liquid drain through. Discard the grains and bring the liquid to a boil. Set aside.
    2. Add the 2 cans of malt extract and honey into the pot. Stir well.
    3. Boil for an hour. Add half of the bittering hops at the 15 minute mark, the other half at 30 minute mark, then the aroma hops at the 60 minute mark.
    4. Set aside and let stand for 15 minutes.
    5. Place 2 gallons of chilled water into the primary fermenter and add the hot wort into it. Top with more water to total 5 gallons if necessary. Place into an ice bath to cool down to 70-80˚.
    6. Activate dry yeast in 1 cup of sterilized water at 75-90˚ for fifteen minutes. Pitch yeast into the fermenter. Fill airlock halfway with water. Ferment at room temp (64-68˚) for 3-4 days.
    7. Siphon over to a secondary glass fermenter for another 4-7 days.
    8. To bottle, make a priming syrup on the stove with 1 cup sterile water and 3/4 cup priming sugar, bring to a boil for five minutes. Pour the mixture into an empty bottling bucket. Siphon the beer from the fermenter over it. Distribute priming sugar evenly. Siphon into bottles and cap. Let sit for 1-2 weeks at 75˚.



    • 2 (3.3 lb) cans light malt extract
    • 1 lb light dried malt extract
    • 12 oz crushed amber crystal malt
    • 8 oz Biscuit Malt
    • 1 lb White House Honey
    • 1 1/2 oz Kent Goldings Hop Pellets
    • 1 1/2 oz Fuggles Hop pellets
    • 2 tsp gypsum
    • 1 pkg Windsor dry ale yeast
    • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming


    1. In an 12 qt pot, steep the grains in a hop bag in 1 1/2 gallons of sterile water at 155 degrees for half an hour. Remove the grains.
    2. Add the 2 cans of the malt extract and the dried extract and bring to a boil.
    3. For the first flavoring, add the 1 1/2 oz Kent Goldings and 2 tsp of gypsum. Boil for 45 minutes.
    4. For the second flavoring, add the 1/2 oz Fuggles hop pellets at the last minute of the boil.
    5. Add the honey and boil for 5 more minutes.
    6. Add 2 gallons chilled sterile water into the primary fermenter and add the hot wort into it. Top with more water to total 5 gallons. There is no need to strain.
    7. Pitch yeast when wort temperature is between 70-80˚. Fill airlock halfway with water.
    8. Ferment at 68-72˚ for about seven days.
    9. Rack to a secondary fermenter after five days and ferment for 14 more days.
    10. To bottle, dissolve the corn sugar into 2 pints of boiling water for 15 minutes. Pour the mixture into an empty bottling bucket. Siphon the beer from the fermenter over it. Distribute priming sugar evenly. Siphon into bottles and cap. Let sit for 2 to 3 weeks at 75˚.

    Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/

  • Obama Beer

    While there are plenty of breweries out there that may make a gimmicky beer during election, this is not one of those beers.  Instead, this is the beer brewered by the president himself (or more likely his staff for him).

     …it was revealed Tuesday that the White House brews its own beer, and that the presidential bus is stocked with bottles of that beer.


    The revelation came incidentally, when a man at the Knoxville coffee shop where Obama stopped today somehow got the president onto the subject of beer, and Obama noted that a sample of the White House’s home brew was just outside.


    Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that Obama gave the man a full bottle of said beer, retrieved from the bus.


    In a press gaggle a short time later, White House Spokesman Jay Carney took several questions about the beer, some which he could answer, others he could not.


    The beer comes in two varieties, light and dark, Carney said. He has personally sampled the lighter brew, and declared it “refreshing.”


    “It is superb,” he said. “It is quite good.”


    Does the president himself drink the beer? Indeed he does, Carney said.


    And why wasn’t the ultra-local ale served at the famed beer summit at the White House in 2009? Because that was before the brewing began he said.


    And who, finally, is the beermeister in charge of brewing it all up?


    “I have exhausted my knowledge of this subject,” Carney said. “When someone hands me a beer I don’t ask how it was made, I just drink it.”

    While it might not be a deciding factor in the vote this Fall, it’s still cool to know that even The President is into home brewing.

    Source: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/