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White House 'Beer Summit' Becomes Something of a Brouhaha


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By ROBERT TOMSHO

The president's plan to toss back a few cold ones with some high-profile guests at the White House has the American beer industry hopping mad.

This afternoon, Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor and race-relations expert, and James Crowley, the police sergeant who controversially arrested Mr. Gates, are to stop by for a round of brews that President Barack Obama hopes will promote racial comity.

The meeting is raising some sensitive issues, such as: What kind of beer?

President Barack Obama will drink Bud Light when he sits down to end a feud between Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley. Simon Constable offers suggestions on what could be on tap for the two White House visitors.

Late Wednesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs hinted the presidential cooler will likely be stocked with what he understood to be the two guests' own personal favorites -- Red Stripe and Blue Moon.

"The president will drink Bud Light," Mr. Gibbs added.

The problem is that all three beers are products of foreign companies. Red Stripe is brewed by London-based Diageo PLC. Blue Moon is sold by a joint venture in which London-based SABMiller has a majority stake.

And Bud Light? It is made by Anheuser-Busch -- which is now known as Anseuser-Busch InBev NV after getting bought last year by a giant Belgian-Brazilian company.

Among rival brewers, the news fell flat. "We would hope they would pick a family-owned, American beer to lubricate the conversation," said Bill Manley, a spokesman for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a California-based brewer that happens to be family-owned.

Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams, decried "the foreign domination of something so basic and important to our culture as beer."

Genesee Brewery, Rochester, N.Y., released a statement congratulating the president for having beer at the meeting but adding: "We just hope the next time the President has a beer, he chooses an American beer, made by American workers, and an American-owned brewery like Genesee."

Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Congressman who has also written the White House amid the beer ferment, also hopes the meeting will promote beer-drinking nationalism. In a not-so-subtle dig at Bud, he said he knew he and the president "both share a common interest in fostering the success of American-headquartered companies."

In a statement, David Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch, said the company "would be proud if Budweiser, Bud Light or any of our beers" is served at the White House meeting. A spokesman for the joint venture that sells Blue Moon said the company is happy it is being considered. Diageo declined to comment.

[beer mug]

It all started about two weeks ago when Sgt. Crowley, who is white, arrested Mr. Gates, who is black, at his Cambridge home after responding to a call about a suspected break-in there. Each man accused the other of belligerence. President Barack Obama added fuel to the fire last week by saying the police had behaved "stupidly."

Seeking to calm the situation, the president then invited both men to the White House for a friendly beer.

For the past several days, David von Storch, co-founder of Capitol City Brewing Company -- which owns a brewpub just a few blocks from the White House -- has been lobbying the administration to serve his company's "Equality Ale."

"What better beer to have them drink than the only beer brewed in the District of Columbia, Capitol City Brewing Company Equality Ale!" Mr. von Storch wrote in an email he sent Tuesday to several White House staffers.

Kyle Watkins, a White House staff assistant who got one of the messages, emailed back that he would pass along the suggestion on but didn't know if it would go anywhere. Reached by phone, Mr. Watkins declined to discuss the matter.

In general, the White House strives to showcase American food, wines and traditional concoctions at official meals and parties. Sometimes, even menu items with a foreign provenance are Americanized. In the George W. Bush White House, a favorite chocolate dessert was referred to not as a French-style soufflé, but as a "chocolate freedom."

[beer at Capitol City Brewing Co.] Andrew Cutraro/Redux for The Wall Street Journal.

When questioned by reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Gibbs, the White House spokesman, tackled the beer issue head-on. "As I understand it -- I have not heard this, I've read this, so I'll just repeat what I've read, that Professor Gates said he liked Red Stripe, and I believe Sergeant Crowley mentioned to the president that he liked Blue Moon. So we'll have the gamut covered tomorrow afternoon. I think we're still thinking, weather permitting, the picnic table out back. All right?"

Dan Kenary, president of Boston-based Harpoon Brewery, said he wanted to make a run at getting some of his beer into the meeting but couldn't find any intermediaries with close White House contacts. "I think just showing up at the gate with a case of Harpoon would make them look at us funny," he said.

Maureen Ogle, author of "Ambitious Brew, The Story of American Beer," said that by holding the summit, the President risks criticism from groups working to persuade the public to drink less alcohol.

For instance, there is the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which led the fight for Prohibition in the early 20th century. Rita K. Wert, the group's national president, said her organization is disappointed that the president is serving beer at all. "There are so many other beverages he could have chosen that would have served just as well," she said, mentioning lemonade or iced tea.

—Elizabeth Williamson contributed to this article.

Write to Robert Tomsho at rob.tomsho@wsj.com

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For instance, there is the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which led the fight for Prohibition in the early 20th century. Rita K. Wert, the group's national president, said her organization is disappointed that the president is serving beer at all. "There are so many other beverages he could have chosen that would have served just as well," she said, mentioning lemonade or iced tea.

:o

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You know, I like the idea of them drinking an Amercian beer, but why does it have to be a crappy American beer that any true beer snob wouldn't even consider a beer (ie Budweiser, Coors)? Also, when I say "beer snob" I mean it as a compliment (as that's what my friends, and myself, call me). Anyway, why does it have to be one of those garbage beers? Why can't it be anyone of the many fantastic micro-breweries that dot this great land of ours? Perhaps Mountain Sun from Colorado, my favorite brewery in the US? I also realize that Bud is now owned by a foreign company, but I still consider it an American beer, as it was founded here, and up until last year was owned by an American company.

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Not to sound like a snob.. But am I the only one that feels that they have outgrown their country? Just watching the news and listening to politicians lately I feel that I'm either smarter or just flat out better than the majority in this nation. I'm too good to be an American at this point. There has to be a country out there for grownups to build and live in a civilization.. Sad to say our brave men and women are probably wasting their time overseas. We aren't worth the effort.

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You know, I like the idea of them drinking an Amercian beer, but why does it have to be a crappy American beer that any true beer snob wouldn't even consider a beer (ie Budweiser, Coors)? Also, when I say "beer snob" I mean it as a compliment (as that's what my friends, and myself, call me). Anyway, why does it have to be one of those garbage beers? Why can't it be anyone of the many fantastic micro-breweries that dot this great land of ours? Perhaps Mountain Sun from Colorado, my favorite brewery in the US? I also realize that Bud is now owned by a foreign company, but I still consider it an American beer, as it was founded here, and up until last year was owned by an American company.

I tell you why he chose Bud Light.....Money. The beer distributors have a HUGE lobby.....They spend more than the tobacco lobby and the NRA combined. As AB beers, and specifically Bud Light are the top selling beers in America, the beer distributors have a vested interest in promoting their biggest seller. Had Obama chosen a local, American owned micro brew such as Goose Island from Chicago, or Avery from Colorado, or even from the larger Boston Brewing(Sam Adams), it would have drawn attention towards a beer few know about and thus piqued their interest in said beer. It's unlikely any of those beers would have flown off the shelf, but it would do something the beer distributors don't want. Generating interest for a brand most of them do not wish to distribute.

Cheers.

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Not to sound like a snob.. But am I the only one that feels that they have outgrown their country? Just watching the news and listening to politicians lately I feel that I'm either smarter or just flat out better than the majority in this nation. I'm too good to be an American at this point. There has to be a country out there for grownups to build and live in a civilization.. Sad to say our brave men and women are probably wasting their time overseas. We aren't worth the effort.

You're just better than the lowest common denominator that has come to define our media. The worst thing you can do is start thinking that everyone is as dense as what is portrayed on the news or television. When I start feeling like that, I turn off the news for a couple of weeks and start talking to actual people. It really helps.

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I wonder what would have happened if Crowley refused the invitation? Ouch!!!! :lol:

I assume he was strongly encouraged.

Did the media ever talk about W. drinking? This is the second time they've mentioned Obama drinking, first the picture of him drinking a beer at the All-Star game, now this. I don't recall W. ever having beer summits. I know he gave up drinking in the 80's, but didn't know how steadfast he was. It's just interesting to me the different ways in which the media portrays presidents. The coverage of Obama drinking a beer at the All-Star game was a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to show him as a regular American guy.

This is a situation where Obama was damned if he did, and damned if he didn't. Like the picture of him at the All-Star game, him drinking Bud-Light today is an attempt to portray him as an all American guy. Had he gone with some local brewery some idiot like Rush would have accused him of being an elitist that can't drink everyman's beer. Politics are ********.

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I tell you why he chose Bud Light.....Money. The beer distributors have a HUGE lobby.....They spend more than the tobacco lobby and the NRA combined. As AB beers, and specifically Bud Light are the top selling beers in America, the beer distributors have a vested interest in promoting their biggest seller. Had Obama chosen a local, American owned micro brew such as Goose Island from Chicago, or Avery from Colorado, or even from the larger Boston Brewing(Sam Adams), it would have drawn attention towards a beer few know about and thus piqued their interest in said beer. It's unlikely any of those beers would have flown off the shelf, but it would do something the beer distributors don't want. Generating interest for a brand most of them do not wish to distribute.

Cheers.

Couldn't have said it better myself. Everything is about politics and money. Obama probably doesn't even like Bud Light. At least he shouldn't, if he has every tried anything actually decent.

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I tell you why he chose Bud Light.....Money. The beer distributors have a HUGE lobby.....They spend more than the tobacco lobby and the NRA combined. As AB beers, and specifically Bud Light are the top selling beers in America, the beer distributors have a vested interest in promoting their biggest seller. Had Obama chosen a local, American owned micro brew such as Goose Island from Chicago, or Avery from Colorado, or even from the larger Boston Brewing(Sam Adams), it would have drawn attention towards a beer few know about and thus piqued their interest in said beer. It's unlikely any of those beers would have flown off the shelf, but it would do something the beer distributors don't want. Generating interest for a brand most of them do not wish to distribute.

Cheers.

Oh, I know that's the reason. I was just hoping for once someone might let taste be their guide instead of money. Though I guess if someone put quality above cash, they wouldn't be in the US government.

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Oh, I know that's the reason. I was just hoping for once someone might let taste be their guide instead of money. Though I guess if someone put quality above cash, they wouldn't be in the US government.

The large brewers don't care about making quality beer, they care about making money. Behind that philosophy is to rule the brewing world. That's why the larger brewers are in so tight with the distributors. If they can control the distributors, they can control the market. If you have to resort to humor to sell beer, then the beer most likely sucks. When was the last time anyone saw an advertisement for Rouge beers?

Don't get me started on this.... :angry:

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The large brewers don't care about making quality beer, they care about making money. Behind that philosophy is to rule the brewing world. That's why the larger brewers are in so tight with the distributors. If they can control the distributors, they can control the market. If you have to resort to humor to sell beer, then the beer most likely sucks. When was the last time anyone saw an advertisement for Rouge beers?

Don't get me started on this.... :angry:

I'm with you, believe me. There's a Belgium pub in downtown Denver, that sells Belgium beers, obviously. Anyway, we were talking to the owner one day about why he didn't carry Hoegaarden on tap, but had it in bottles. I can't type the whole story here (as it would take me a week to type), but it essentially all boiled down to how the local distributor for Hoegaarden was Coors, and if he wanted to have Hoegaarden on tap, he would also have to put Coors on tap, which he refused to do (cause it's a Belgium Pub). There was some more to it than that, but that alone was infuriating.

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You're just better than the lowest common denominator that has come to define our media. The worst thing you can do is start thinking that everyone is as dense as what is portrayed on the news or television. When I start feeling like that, I turn off the news for a couple of weeks and start talking to actual people. It really helps.

Yeah I'm going to really have to give that a shot..

It's not just the "media" persay, but also the people that we have elected to run things that has me thinking this way as of late..And its also easy to blame the media but when you look at the ratings the audience is out there....

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