4:03pm

Sat September 15, 2012
Politics

Obama Polishes His 'Regular Guy' Image With Beer

Originally published on Sat September 15, 2012 5:48 pm

There's an old shorthand for likeability in politics: "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?"

Polls show President Obama has been winning that likeability contest. And he's been raising a lot of frosty mugs on the campaign trail, hoping to press his advantage over the teetotaling Mitt Romney.

The strategy could come to a head in the swing state of Colorado.

As President Obama was holding an outdoor campaign rally in Golden this past week, the signature smell of beer brewing washed over the audience, a reminder of the nearby Coors brewery.

Secret Brew Declassified

The president has been polishing his "regular guy" credentials by talking a lot about beer. And lately, he's been handing out samples of a specialty White House homebrew. The secret recipe was just declassified with a video on the White House website, featuring chef and brewmaster Sam Kass.

The White House beer is flavored with honey from the first lady's beehive. And it could become a potent weapon in Colorado, a hive of home brewing activity. Membership in the American Homebrewers Association jumped 26 percent last year. And Colorado has more members than any other states.

The DIY Brewing Movement

Nick Bruening works at the Brew Hut, a home brew supply store just outside of Denver, where you can buy fermenting tanks, specialty yeast and a huge variety of steeping grains.

"This is Graintopia. This is where all of our grains are," he says. "We go through a lot of grain in this room."

With a beer-making club called "Foam on the Range," a beer festival and a wealth of brew pubs, one of which was started by the state's governor, Colorado's front range has been called the Napa Valley of Beer. Bruening has heard that but says it's a little wide of the mark. "This is more laid back," he says. "Easygoing".

And maybe that's the vibe the Obama campaign is going for. Thomas Jefferson made wine at Monticello, but you won't find a recipe for Pinot Noir on the White House website.

Is the president's newfound suds habit more than just a cynical political ploy? Maybe it's the ethos of home-brewing that he's trying to tap into, a hobby that's do-it-yourself, but not all by yourself. The idea is that we're all in this fermenting tank together.

If so, when you crack open a cold one from your own beer cellar, you didn't brew that on your own. You're standing on the six-pack shoulders of all those who came before, including that giant brewery in the foothills, where the Coors family got the beer rolling in Colorado almost 140 years ago.

"They kind of started it for everybody" Bruening says. "I'll bet somebody was drinking a Coors Light when they thought, 'Hey, I can make this better.' "

Yes we can — and bottle.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Which presidential candidate would you rather have a beer with? Polls show President Obama has been winning that likeability contest, and he's been raising a lot of frosty mugs on the campaign trail hoping to press his advantage over the teetotaling Mitt Romney. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama was holding an outdoor campaign rally in Golden, Colorado, this past week when the wind shifted and the signature smell of boiling wort washed over the audience, a fragrant reminder of the nearby Coors brewery.

(SOUNDBITE OF COORS COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Tap the Rockies. Coors Light.

HORSLEY: The president's been talking a lot about beer, looking to polish his regular guy credentials. But Coors is not exactly his silver bullet. And not just because Joe Coors is running for Congress as a Republican. When Mr. Obama orders a name brand beer, it's typically Bud Light. And lately, he's also been handing out samples of a specialty White House home brew. The secret recipe was just declassified with a video on the White House website, featuring chef and brewmaster Sam Kass.

SAM KASS: That is one incredible beer, if I do say so myself. America, I wish everybody could taste this, but we don't quite brew enough.

HORSLEY: The White House beer is flavored with honey from the first lady's beehive. And it could become a potent weapon in Colorado, a hive of home brewing activity. Membership in the American Homebrewers Association jumped 26 percent last year, and Colorado has more members than any other state.

NICK BRUENING: I mean, the past couple of years, it's been nothing but growth.

HORSLEY: Nick Bruening - yeah, Bruening - works at The Brew Hut, a home brew supply store just outside of Denver, where you can buy fermenting tanks, specialty yeast and a huge variety of steeping grains.

BRUENING: It's graintopia. This is, like, where all of our grains are. Smells good. We go through a lot of grain in this room.

(SOUNDBITE OF GRAINS SPILLING)

HORSLEY: With a beer-making club called Foam on the Range, a beer festival, and a wealth of brewpubs, one of which was started by the state's governor, Colorado's Front Range has been called the Napa Valley of beer. Bruening has heard that expression but says it's a little wide of the mark.

BRUENING: This is more laid-back, easygoing.

HORSLEY: And maybe that's the vibe the Obama campaign is going for. After all, Thomas Jefferson made wine at Monticello, but you won't find a recipe for pinot noir in the White House website. Homebrewer Steve Martyniak(ph) of Parker, Colorado, has been experimenting with an India Pale Ale recipe that his wife likes. He stopped by the Brew Hut this past week for supplies and some advice.

STEVE MARTYNIAK: It's a great place to come and hang out. And there's a wealth of knowledge in here, so it makes my brewing a lot easier.

HORSLEY: That's just what Bruening wants to hear.

BRUENING: That's what I like to do. I mean, I grow satisfaction out of making sure somebody hits, like, their desired recipe or gets the flavor that they want. I mean, it's kind of, it's all up to them once they leave my shop. But, you know, I can help them with techniques, experiences, failures, successes that I've had.

HORSLEY: Listening to these guys, I wonder if maybe the president's newfound suds habit is more than just a cynical political ploy. Maybe it's the ethos of home brewing that he's trying to tap into, a hobby that's do-it-yourself, but not all by yourself, the idea that we're all in this fermenting tank together.

So when you crack open a cold one from your own beer cellar, you didn't brew that on your own. You're standing on the six-pack shoulders of all those who came before, including that giant brewery in the foothills where the Coors family got the beer ball rolling in Colorado almost 140 years ago.

BRUENING: They kind of started it for everybody, you know what I mean? I bet somebody was drinking a Coors Light when they thought, hey, I can make this better.

HORSLEY: Yes, we can, and bottle. Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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