organic beer at obama beer summitEvery once in a while, Obama reminds us that a thinking human being, and not a card-reading automaton, has taken over the White House. The latest evidence: his handling of the Skip Gates arrest. Obama clearly didn’t vet his reaction–that the cop “acted stupidly”–with a squadron of pollsters and message framers before uttering it aloud. And then, when a hubbub arose around it, he publicly invited the professor and the cop over for a beer to hash things out.

What other president has ever done anything remotely like a beer summit?

As a great admirer of fermented, hopped barley juice, I’m bubbling over with ideas about the beer served at this three-bro bromance drama. The men chose three separate beers: the prez a Bud Light (!), officer James Crowley a Blue Moon, and the professor a Red Stripe. [UPDATE: Gates actually ended up going with a Sam Adams Light, and Vice President Joe Biden joined the gathering and drank a non-alcoholic Buckler.]


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The president, after all his derring-do on this incident, took a deep dive into convention here. Why is it that French presidents–even the current one, a confirmed philistine–have to pretend they’re Jean-Paul Sartre, while U.S. presidents–with their sterling Ivy League credentials–have to play Stanley Kowalski?

Come on, Barry; you’re from Chicago. Why didn’t you bust out a variety of Chicago’s own Goose Island brews for your new homies to choose from? Or you could have gone with Bell’s, a fantastic brewery from across the lake in Kalamazoo.

Or you could have gone local-ish and tapped something from what I consider to be the most interesting U.S. craft brewery today–Delaware’s dynamic Dogfish Head.

And the possibilities don’t end there. Up the seaboard in New York City, there’s the venerable Brooklyn Brewery, which plays Apollo to Dogfish Head’s Dionysus (that’s a Nietzsche reference for the Harvard prof). The brewmaster there is an African-American man named Garrett Oliver, who’s probably our nation’s leading beer intellectual. Obama could have invited Garrett along to the beer summit to lead a tasting.

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Of course, Obama could also have gone completely radical, just to prove he thinks for himself. Might I recommend a beer brewed with wheat and agave nectar, from the stalwart Colorado brewer Breckenridge?

Finally, Obama could have killed two birds with one stone by using the beer-summit episode to score points with his organic-loving wife. That is, he could have chosen a certified-organic beer. Here at Grist, I’ve presided over not one, not two, but three organic beer tastings in the past couple of years. I can testify under oath that organic brew offerings are growing in variety and quality.

But seriously, Mr. President, Bud Light? I have to out the president here, who’s clearly trying to play some all-American, Joe Sixpack card. In 2008, the Belgian beer giant InBev snapped up Anheuser-Busch, maker of Obama’s chosen brew, for $52 billion.

That’s right–our president selected a beer made by an effete European company: the same company that owns Stella Artois! The ignominy!

As for the cop, his Blue Moon selection is a bust, too. It’s a fake Belgian-style beer brewed in Colorado by vile Molson Coors Brewing Company. Gates’ choice of the Jamaican lager Red Stripe flirts with respectability; it’s the best beer of a lame bunch. Yet even Red Stripe is a corporate product; it’s owned by the global British beverages concern Diageo.

In the end, of course, Obama was probably right to the play the blue-collar card. I’m an arugula-loving foodie; what the hell do I know about the political semiotics of beer?