Presidents’ Day is a time to stop and reflect on the dedication and achievements of the United State’s past and present leaders. Overseeing the well-being of a nation is a task none but the President himself can imagine, and the pressures that come along with the duties no doubt create a deep-thirst only the bubbly goodness of beer can quench. This Presidents’ Day, let us all take moment and commemorate some of our nation’s leaders who have aided in the promotion and protection of beer and homebrewing.
George Washington (1789-1797)
The founding fathers got right to beer-business after declaring independence from the motherland. George Washington, the first President of the United States, was said to be a homebrewer, based on a handwritten beer recipe found in a notebook Washington kept while a colonel in the Virginia militia. Sometimes referred to as “crummy” by those who have tried to brew the recipe, Washington’s beer was more likely on par with a soda of the day and made more as a source of potable water rather than the effervescent beverage we think of today.
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
Though the brewing duties were left primarily to his wife during his presidency, Thomas Jefferson built a brew house at his Monticello estate after retiring. With the help of British expatriate and trained brewer, Thomas Miller, Jefferson produced a hoppy beer he referred to as “ale” because of its lighter color compared to the typical porters of the day. Jefferson was quoted in a letter petitioning for Miller’s citizenship saying, “I wish to see this beverage become common instead of the whiskey which kills one third of our citizens and ruins their families.”
James Madison (1809-1817)
Madison, the fourth president of the United States, is best known for being the “Father of the Constitution,” but he also played a hand in protecting and promoting beer production in young America. Though occurring before his presidency, Madison promoted the idea of taxing imported beer and ingredients as a source of revenue for the new, struggling country, and to give domestic breweries a fighting chance in the beer market. Contrary to popular belief, Madison most likely did not propose appointing a Secretary of Beer to the presidential cabinet.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
Roosevelt won four separate elections and served more than twelve years as president until his untimely death during his fourth term. In his time in office, Roosevelt ended a dark era for beer by signing into effect laws that ended 14 years of Prohibition in America. The 21st Amendment officially passed on Dec. 5, 1933, what is now known as Repeal Day.
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
It took more than twenty years after the end of Prohibition for brewing beer at home to become federally legal. Jimmy Carter, America’s 39th president, signed H.R. 1337 on Oct. 14, 1978, which contained an amendment sponsored by Alan Cranston, creating an exemption from taxation for beer brewed at home. This exemption officially went into effect on Feb. 1, 1979.
Barack Obama (2009 – Present)
Obama stirred up the homebrew kettle in 2011 when he revealed Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, Sam Kass, brewed the first beer within the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A petition was drafted calling for the White House to reveal the recipes to the public, and Obama and the White House delivered. White House Honey Ale and Honey Porter are now popular recipe kits offered by homebrew shops across the country!
Duncan Bryant is the Web Coordinator for the American Homebrewers Association.