President's 'Beer Summit'
not made in America
By JOHN HOLL
Thursday night, President Barack Obama will share a beer with two men
who recently found themselves involved in an incident that opened a
new dialogue on race relations, law enforcement and politics.
Last week, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his
home in Cambridge, Mass. by Sgt. James Crowley. According to reports,
Gates was locked out of his house and was trying to force open the front
door when officers arrived. Sgt. Crowley placed Gates under arrest after
calling the professor uncooperative, charging him with disorderly
While the charge was later dropped, Gates called it an example of racial
profiling. Then the President weighed in and said that the police had
News reports and talk shows have been filled with endless chatter about
the event, the president's comments, and once again people are
examining the racial divide that exists in the United States.
What is most troubling to me about this situation are the chosen beers
the men will share outside the Oval Office while presumably burying the
The President is said to be having Bud Lite, while it will be Blue Moon for
Sgt. Crowley and a Red Stripe for Professor Gates.
While all three are fine in certain circumstances, the fact is that
corporations not based in American own all three. For the record,
Budweiser, a longtime St. Louis staple, and Red Stripe are both now
owned by Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch Inbev, and Blue Moon is a
subsidiary of South African-Canadian owned Miller Molson-Coors.
This would have been a prime opportunity for the President to embrace
one of the hundreds of smaller craft breweries currently operating in the
It is easy to choose beers like Budweiser, the undisputed giant in the
business. It is part of the country's history and its marketing campaign
has made it recognized around the globe. Craft beers, for the most part,
still live in obscurity on the shelves, with many consumers unwilling to
reach for unfamiliar labels.
But, that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with those beers. In fact,
according to industry statistics, craft brewers produced nearly 8.6 million
barrels of craft beer in the U.S. in 2008. For those in the know, there is a
growing customer support for local breweries.
President Obama has done admirable things since taking over the Oval
Office, including the planting of a sustainable garden on the White
House grounds. He would be doing a favor to the craft beer industry to
embrace a beer brewed in the American entrepreneurial spirit.
The president could have easily called upon Capitol City Brewing, right in
D.C., Or Sgt. Crowley and Professor Gates could reach for any one of the
Sam Adams beers made in Boston, or even one of the fine beers made
by Harpoon, another Massachusetts-based brewery.
Or they could branch out to offerings from Magic Hat of Vermont, Rogue
of Oregon and Dogfish Head of Delaware, or even New Jersey's own
All are craft breweries that have gone beyond the typical beer offerings
and created innovative and complex brews.
To truly call tonight's meeting a "Beer Summit" it would be nice if the
men were actually going to sit down with a "real" American beer.
John Holl writes about the craft beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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A Journalist Looks at Beer
|The Beer Briefing
by John Holl