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Three Beers For the Red White and Blue

Blue MoonBudLiteRed StripesThe president will drink Bud Light, White House Press Secretary Gibbs told reporters today.

Gates has said he likes Red Stripe,

while Sgt. James Crowley mentioned to the president that he prefers Blue Moon.


President Barack Obama proposed a “Beer Summit” to talk over issues involving the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Sgt. James Crowley.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a renowned, gray-haired Harvard professor. He’s no racial arsonist, and he’s certainly no criminal.

Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley is a decorated 11-year police veteran. He went to racially diverse schools. He taught a course for rookie cops on how to avoid racial profiling.

Three Beers For Improving Race Relations?

by Ken Rudin
July 30, 2009

An honest conversation about race, after a round of beers.

Are you kidding?

I grew up in New York City, where you take the subway if you want to get anywhere. I distinctly remember being on the A train on countless late nights, and many St. Patrick’s Days, where folks who have had one too many were not shy about expressing their views about race. It was not pretty. I’m not sure if today’s “beer summit” — involving President Obama, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley — is the way to go.

Beer makes people do strange things. I clearly recall getting home after a night of beers with some pals and then calling every ex-girlfriend I ever had — or imagined I had. Many of them hadn’t heard from me since the third grade and were appalled to be hearing from me, decades later, at 2 in the morning. A big mistake. I can only imagine what weird things President Obama might do after an evening of beers. Bowling, for example.

There may have been summits in the past where beer might have made sense. Take Khrushchev and Kennedy in 1961. I don’t know if JFK was old enough to drink back then, but Nikita K. certainly was. Historians note that Khrushchev pretty much bullied the new president at their Vienna summit, but a sloshed Khrushchev might have been a different story.

Fast forward to the Iran-Contra scandal. Many people have misinterpreted President Reagan’s words during that 1986 brouhaha, where the U.S. planned to sell arms to Iran, violating an embargo, in return for the freedom of American hostages, and use the money to illegally fund the Nicaraguan Contras, who were battling the leftist government there.

When Reagan called out, “Bud, McFarlane,” he wasn’t necessarily blaming his national security adviser, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, for the scandal. He was simply asking McFarlane to bring him a beer. Iran-Contra sullied Reagan’s reputation at the time, but had the facts been known, Congress would no doubt have repealed the 22nd Amendment and Reagan would have run for a third term.

This backs up my argument that there were many moments in history where the introduction of beer might have made a difference. I’m not making this up. You can look it up in the Guinness Book of Records.

But tossing back a couple of cold ones and then talking about race? Very risky.

Red, Lite and Blue: The Beers Obama, Gates, Crowley Will Drink at White House

President Obama Hopes to Ease Tensions by Drinking Beer with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley
ABC NEWS Business Unit
July 29, 2009

The White House made its first decision about what will be the beverage of choice at Thursday’s Suds Summit when President Obama sits down with Prof. Henry Louis Gates and the police sergeant who arrested him in an attempt to smooth over a racial furor. The decision either indicates the inclusive policies of the White House or that the three men couldn’t agree on what to drink..

What is the right beer for President Obama to pick for his White House drink with police Sgt. James Crowley and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.? Obama went the route of individual choice: he will drink a Bud Light, Gates will have a Red Stripe and Crowley a Blue Moon.

The president will drink Bud Light, White House Press Secretary Gibbs told reporters today. Gates has said he likes Red Stripe, while Sgt. James Crowley mentioned to the president that he prefers Blue Moon.

“So we’ll have the gamut covered tomorrow afternoon,” Gibbs added.

Weather permitting, the three will hoist a cold one on the picnic table next to the White House’s new swing set around 6 p.m.

For days, people have been speculating about what the president would choose for Thursday’s gathering? A lager? A porter? Maybe a wheat beer? Does he pick something light to help the men with the Washington, D.C., summer heat?

Officer on Tape: Gates ‘Uncooperative’Obama Invites Gates, Cambridge Cop To White HouseWATCH: Jake Tapper on Beer DiplomacyGibbs’s announcement aboard Air Force One today now clears the way for the Red, Lite and Blue summit.

“In the summertime people want something maybe just a little bit lighter, more refreshing. They’re not going to go for a heavier stout or nut brown,” Steen Sawyer, general manager of John Harvard’s Brew House a few steps away from Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, said when asked what he would pick earlier in the week.

Donna Brazile, an ABC News political consultant, suggested Boston-brewed Sam Adams. The beer is sold everywhere from police bars to academic haunts. (The New York Post also picked Sam Adams as the front runner.)



White House ‘Beer Summit’ Becomes Something of a Brouhaha
U.S. Brewers Say Meeting With Professor, Policeman Should Be All-American Affair

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

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?

Andrew Cutraro for The Wall Street Journal.
Capitol City Brewing, a pub located a few blocks from the White House, lobbied Obama to serve its ‘Equality Ale.’
Obama Hopes To End Brew-haha With White House 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.

Discuss: If you were invited to the White House “Beer Summit,” what beer would you ask for?

Wash Wire: Obama: It’s Not a ‘Beer Summit’

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.

 .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.”

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

Corrections & Amplifications

The name of brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV was misspelled as Anseuser-Busch in this article.

Choosing a drink is not an easy decision for politicians. During the heated Democratic primary in Pennsylvania Hillary Clinton pounded back a shot of Crown Royal whiskey and chased it with a beer. Obama visited a sports bar and sampled a Yuengling after making sure it wasn’t ”some designer beer.”

Some had suspected that this time around the president might have instead choose to highlight a beer from his hometown of Chicago.

Goose Island, the city’s largest brewery, provided the only beer at Obama’s election night celebration in Grant Park, according to Anthony Bowker, the brewer’s chief operating officer.

Beer From Obama’s Hometown
That night, 3,000 bottles of Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat Ale and Honker’s Ale were at the celebration. The brewery was started in 1988, at the beginning of the craft beer resurgence and is made using water from Lake Michigan.

The company sells its beer mostly around the Midwest but started to distribute to Washington after Obama’s victory.

The presidential choice — even though it is three beers — could provide a big bounce for any beer maker. A presidential endorsement — official or not — sticks in people’s minds.

Ask anybody what Bill Clinton ate during the 1992 presidential campaign and they are likely to mention McDonald’s. And Michelle’s Obama’s selection of a J.Crew wardrobe brought the company massive spikes in orders, especially of outfits she has worn.

When asked by reporters at a briefing Monday about the beverage choice, Gibbs noted that Obama hoisted a Budweiser at baseball’s All-Star Game earlier this month. Granted, however, the game was in St. Louis, home of Budweiser.

Gibbs also noted at that briefing that Crowley told the president he was more partial to Blue Moon.

“It’s widely know that people have sat down together over a beer to resolve differences and disputes. We’re happy to know that beer continues to be a beverage that brings people together for fellowship and our beer Blue Moon may be considered for the occasion,” said Julian Green, a spokesman for MillerCoors, which owns Blue Moon.

“Blue Moon is a classic style of beer that is artfully crafted with an inviting twist and would be great for any occasion when people want to connect for a lighthearted moment,” Green added.

Political Backlash for Blue Moon
Blue Moon, however, could be a problematic pick for the Democratic president, because while it is marketed as a small craft beer, it was actually created by Coors and today owned by MillerCoors. The Coors family has been a long-time supporter of the Republican party. Additionally, the AFL-CIO ran a decade-long boycott of the company’s beer in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Budweiser — although apparently preferred by the President — isn’t a slam dunk either. Some could argue that the beer is no longer an American beer after being bought out by Belgian-Brazilian beer giant InBev, maker of Hoegaarden, Leffe and Stella Artois.

Devin Dinneen, general manager of Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, the bar that Crowley was in Friday when the president called, inviting him to the White House for a beer, offered some perspective. He was there on Friday when Crowley and some other police officers were eating lunch and Obama called.

“They’re regulars at the bar because the [police] station is right around the corner from us in Cambridge,” he said.

But Dinneen couldn’t say any particular beer that Crowley likes to drink.

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