ALE TO THE CHIEF

Recently, while picking my way through a vacant lot to
photograph the side of a house I was inspecting, I
tripped over a discarded bottle of Presidente Beer,
pride of the Dominican Republic.  A few years ago I
sampled this bland offering from the Caribbean and
determined it to be yet another of the hundreds of
mass-marketed, watery, tasteless, lagers that pass
for beer in some folks’ minds.  Therefore, I wasn’t as
excited as I was when, a week previously, on another
inspection, I discovered a full wooden case of
Ballantine quart bottles with intact labels from the
early fifties.

But the Presidents name triggered my memory and
Rafael Trujillo’s name came to mind, causing me to
reflect on the difference between him and our
American Presidents, most of which have never had a
beer named in their honor.  I started wondering about
presidents and how they relate to beer, began to
research the subject, and unearthed some facts that
should interest fellow beer enthusiasts.

What better place to start than with the “Father of
Our Country,” George Washington.  It’s fairly well
know around the beer world that Washington was a
brewer of porter, but just how unquenchable was his
thirst can only be determined by reading a little
history.  On July 20th of 1788, George wrote to a
Philadelphia beer distributor, Clement Biddle,
requesting that a gross of “Mr. Hale’s porter” he sent
to him.  Mr. Hale was a Philadelphia brewer whose
product Washington had sampled at the Constitution
Ratification Celebration.  Only two weeks later, on
August 4, he wrote again to Mr. Biddle requesting
another gross.  Since a gross of modern day twelve
ounce bottles equals six cases and since bottles of
the late eighteenth century were substantially larger
than twelve ounces, it can easily be seen that Mr.
Washington went through better than three cases a
week.  

Unable to slake his maddening thirst, George turned
to home brewing and, to supplement these efforts, in
the early 1790s, designated Benjamin Morris to
supply Mt. Vernon with still more Philadelphia porter.

Our second president, John Adams, was not as
fanatical as his predecessor about suds, but does
relate that at age fifteen, while a student at
Harvard, he settled for bread and beer for breakfast,
because of the poor quality of food served to the
students.

Although Thomas Jefferson’s greatest contribution to
American history was screwing France out of the
Louisiana Purchase, he should best be remembered by
beer lovers as America’s foremost brewer.  He
abhorred what distilled spirits did to the masses, and
thought that increased production and availability of
beer, which he believed to be a beverage of
moderation, would solve the problem of
drunkenness.  When he and his architect laid out the
plans for Monticello, space was allotted for a brewery.  
His daughter, Martha, was brewmaster for the
household and turned out so much beer that

Jefferson had a problem with finding enough bottles.  
Perhaps his well documented visits to the slave
quarters to find peace were inspired by a day of
worrying about too much beer and no place to put it.

President Franklin Pierce was despondent after having
lost his son in a train wreck just before his
inauguration.  When he failed to secure his party’s
nomination for re-election due to his lackluster first
term, he made a statement that summed up his
feelings:  “There’s nothing left to do…but to get
drunk.”

President Lincoln instituted a one dollar tax on a
barrel of beer to help pay for the Civil War.  Honest
Abe even contributed himself.  The president liked to
read the latest war dispatches and one evening
wandered into the War Department where he found
Edward Rosewater, a U.S. Military Telegrapher, and
his friends drinking from a pail of beer.  Lincoln dug
out a quarter, sent out for another pail of beer, and
sat down to drink with the boys.

Grover Cleveland, the only president to have served
two non-consecutive terms, has a great beer story
attributed to him.  While campaigning for district
attorney of Erie County, N.Y. in 1870, he and his
opponent, Lyman K. Bass, agreed to limit themselves
to four glasses of beer daily,while campaigning.  They
soon decided this amount was insufficient for their
needs, and both agreed that it wouldn’t sit well with
the voters if they broke their promise of only four
daily glasses.  The next night both showed up with
quart tankards which they re-named “glasses.”  No
problem with campaign pledges after that!

“He kept us out of war” said his supporters during the
re-election campaign of Woodrow Wilson, who then
promptly got us into World War I.  However, he is
best remembered in the beer world as the man who
gave us Prohibition.  If we had been around, he’d
have received no votes from Draught Board 15.

Warren G. Harding, appreciator of backrooms and
card games, actually supported Prohibition although
he personally paid no attention to it.  He even signed
into law the Willis-Campbell Act of 1921, which forbid
doctors from prescribing beer, wine, and hard booze
for medicinal purposes, one of the first ploys to get
around the unpopular amendment.  Mr. Harding might
have figured that if the electorate could drink beer,
there’d be less for him.

At a Washington Senator’s game attended by Herbert
Hoover in 1931, the fans began chanting “we want
beer!”  Hoover just chuckled and did nothing.  He was
rewarded for his efforts by getting tossed out of
office a year later.

In my mind ,all of Franklin Roosevelt’s domestic
programs and international statesmanship are
overshadowed by the accomplishment beer drinkers
love best.  He ended prohibition! But, alas, he didn’t
like beer.  Even though upon signing legislation for
repeal he proclaimed “I think this would be a good
time for a beer,” he celebrated with a cocktail, and the
truckload of Yuengling “Winner” Beer that was sent to
the White House( and which mysteriously arrived
seventy-five cases short) was passed on to the White
House press corps.

Searching the web finds hundreds of references to a
quote attributed to Ike Eisenhower, but no
information as to the source of the quote.  One can
only imagine what he was alluding to when he said,
“Some people wanted champagne and caviar when
they should have beer and hot dogs.”

The miserable administration of Jimmy Carter did have
one shining moment when he signed into law an act
legalizing home brewing in 1979.  Of course, he was
also the brother of beer-swilling Billy Carter, who,
together with the Falls City Brewery, introduced “Billy”
beer to the world.  This short-lived attempt to revive
the ailing brewery came to a quick end when Billy
entered into another business venture with Moammar
Khaddafi of Libya.

Pictures of the greatest President in recent memory
are available showing Ronald Reagan dressed as a
bartender and dancing with a tray of beers, while
promoting Pabst Blue Ribbon in the 1950’s.  Just
another of a hundred reasons to love our dearly
departed President.

During his two terms, President Clinton was embroiled
in numerous scandals covering everything from
alleged rapes to alternative uses for cigars.  
Therefore, it seems fitting that on February 15, 1999,
a controversy arose when the Fredrick Brewery’s
Hempen Ale was served on Air Force One.  The
President, however, did not completely partake.  Like
his earlier experiments with marijuana in which he did
not inhale, so the Hempen Ale was only held in his
mouth.  Swallowing was left to Monica Lewinsky!  In
Mr. Clinton’s defense, Catamount Christmas Ale was
served at the White House in 1996 and Denver Pale
Ale was used to braise the lamb shank served after
the 2000 Christmas Tree lighting.

Although no longer a drinker, our current President is
apparently a promoter of local beer.  When the
Pittsburgh Steelers visited the White House after their
Superbowl victory, Iron City beer was served in the
East Room, and at a barbeque at the Texas ranch for
the White House press corps, Shiner Bock was the
beer of the day.

During the Bicentennial Celebration the Falstaff
Brewery packaged their beer in cans commemorating
American Presidents.  Each can had a picture and a
short biography of the Chief Executive on the sides.  
What a great way to teach History!!


Cheers!

Dan
Another two
glasses up
article from
Dan Hodge!
Someone
has to say
these things
and it could
only be
Dan!
Beer Cellar at  Jefferson's
home, Monticello
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by   Dan Hodge