DRAFT PICKS: Ah! The enjoyable sweetness of honey!

Over the past few years, a lot of people have evaluated their potential presidential choice with “He’s the kind of guy I could have a beer with.”

George W. Bush was one of those “guys.” A lot of voters said they would love to sit down and have a beer with “W.”

Well, class, Pres. Barack Obama has reportedly upped the ante a bit.

He is turning out a bit of homebrew in the basement … of the White House.

According to report in USA Today “The Obama administration confirmed … it has added a new facility to the White House: A small beer brewery.”

The homebrewing operation was “discovered” when Pres. Obama told Iowa voters he had some White House beer on his official bus.

“Revelations about the White House beer came to light after the president gave a bottle of it to a customer at a coffee shop he was visiting in Iowa,” reported the Chicago Tribune.

Not bad. Getting a bottle of the president’s own brew off the presidential bus. How cool.

“There is a home brew, if you will, at the White House,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney in the continuation of the USA Today article. “It’s called White House Honey Ale, with both light and dark varieties.”

News reports note the honey used in the White House Honey Ale is actually gathered from beehives in the garden created by the president’s wife, Michelle.

Small batches of the White House brew are reportedly made for special events, such as the now annual Super Bowl party.

“Last year, a Medal of Honor recipient reported sharing some of the White House brew with the president,” noted the Tribune article.

When word of the White House brewing activity was released, a group of dedicated home-brewers actually filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for the recipe.

In a short story on the Huffington Post website, readers learned: “A petition asking 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to release its Honey Ale recipe (one of their three beers) had also been submitted on the White House website, and Thursday night Press Secretary Jay Carney tweeted that if it reached the 25,000-signature threshold, the White House would release the goods, (i.e. the recipe.)”

Of course, detractors of the president leapt on the news claiming not only that the White House was wasting taxpayers dollars by brewing beer in the basement – like common hooch – but that he was encouraging alcoholism.


C’mon! The guy is brewing a bit of honey ale. Personal use. Full stop.

Maybe the president is simply doing his part in representing the people who elected him.

Paul Gatza, director of American Homebrewers Association, out of Colorado, estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 people in America make their own beer. Across the country, there are about 750 homebrew clubs.

The Home Wine & Beer Trade Association estimates those numbers are actually higher, with between 500,000 and 1 million homebrewers in the United States. (That includes a lot of people who try homebrewing once, but then have their wives toss them out of the kitchen …if not the house!)

Brew Your Own Magazine editors suggest their publication has 91,000 readers every issue. A magazine survey showed there was “… over $57 million spent by readers annually on homebrew supplies and equipment.”

There are some 4,049,500 gallons of homebrew made per year by readers of this magazine alone.

So, the president is not alone in his love for good brew, well produced and bottled close to home … like in the basement!

Until the White House Honey Ale hits the shelves, let’s take a look at some other honey beers that are available in local stores.



Samuel Adams Honey Porter

Samuel Adams Honey Porter
Samuel Adams

This is a hearty, very full-flavored brew that isn’t always readily available in our area, but can be found if you look and ask. (I actually picked my sample up in Grand Rapids.)

Sam Adam’s has created a sweet, flavorful brew that is heavily influenced by a strong dose of Scottish heather honey.

This honey porter pours a deep, deep red – almost a dark but glistening burgundy color.

There is a substantial, foamy head which holds its own for a good while before dissipating leaving a somewhat bubbly lacing.

It is heavily malt forward a first nose, hinting at dark fruits. Very welcoming and attractive as you search for, and find the floral tones tucked away behind the obviously dominant honey smell.

Those who like a more flavored brew, with a hint of sweetness will love this offering. There are hints of licorice peeking out, and at second or third wash there is revealed a hint of hoppiness, but nothing that ever becomes too aggressive.

This Adam’s brew is rich in its porter roots, but not at all rough around the edges as many porters tend to be. Rather, this Honey Porter is more taste and aroma balanced which will certainly appeal to a much larger audience than do standard porters.

I’d suggest this would be good with a spicier dish – some chili or Tex-Mex style offerings. There are plenty enough contradictory and complementary notes in this brew to make it a welcome addition to any table.

Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss
Jacob Leinenkugel
Brewing Company

True to its name, Leinenkugel’s honey brew pours the color of rich honey but is very, very clear and sparkling.

Although the weiss was poured with enthusiasm, very little head formed and still less foam or lacing stayed around for the ride.

This Leinenkugel offering is filled with honey scents and little else. There are some background hints of a ripe, well developed wheat, but honey carries the day. There is very little hoppiness to this brew.

The Honey Weiss tastes very similar to many of the better known wheat beers. There are certainly hints of a white ale of some sort.

There is certainly a pronounced serving of honey in this batch of brew.

In the second or third wash, a measure of hops breaks through, but there is never enough to be overpowering.

One would expect that with so much honey emphasis, there would be a stronger, sweeter aftertaste. Not so here.

As a continuing fan of Leinenkugel, I can only say I’m a touch disappointed with their honey weiss although, quite honestly, I can see where a lot of more accepting drinkers would appreciate this brew as a change from their standard fare.

The only thing that really makes this brew stand out in any way is the addition of the honey.

With a passle of folks coming over for a weekend session at the grill, I could see buying a six-pack of Leinies Honey Weiss.

Truth be known, I probably won’t be buying one to keep around the house.


Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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