Craft brewers unimpressed by "beer summit"
no favours in the Rose Garden
American craft brewers are angry over the choice of beers sampled in the "beer summit" hosted by President Obama in the White House Rose Garden in Washington DC last week. The event was an attempt to heal the rift between eminent Harvard professor Gates and Cambridge (Massachusetts) police sergeant Crowley: the latter arrested the black American professor for allegedly breaking into his own house.
Whether the beer summit has healed the racial divide is not for us to speculate but it has certainly caused a furore in the craft brewing movement in the U.S., a sector that now accounts for around 10% of total beer sales. Craft brewers complained bitterly that the choice of beer did not more accurately reflect the state of the brewing industry and that most of the beers came from foreign-owned companies.
According to Harry Schuhmacher, who edits the Beer Business Daily website, Professor Gates had asked for Red Stripe, the Jamaican-brewed lager owned by global drinks giant Diageo. At the last moment he was prevailed upon to switch to a Sam Adams' brew from the Boston Beer Co in his home state. Sadly, with such fine beers as Sam Adams Lager and Sam Adams Ale to choose from, he went instead for Sam Adams Light.
But at least it's an American brew. Sgt Crowley chose Blue Moon, a Hoegaarden-style spiced wheat beer that is perfectly fine save for the fact that it's owned by Molson Coors, an American-Canadian giant. The beer is believed to be brewed in Canada.
As for the president himself, how could a man of intellect and good taste choose Bud Light? Would he order jug wine for a White House banquet? Aside from the fact that America's leading beer brand is undistinguished to the point of invisibility, it's now owned by AB InBev, the world's biggest brewing group controlled by Belgians and Brazilians.
And then came the splendid walk-on role played by Vice-President Joe Biden, who arrived late and ordered Buckler, a non-alcohol beverage. He should have asked for water.
Complaints came thick and fast. "We would have hoped they would pick a family-owned, American beer to lubricate the conversation," said Sierra Nevada's Bill Manley. A spokesman for the Genesee brewery added: "We just hope the next time the president has a beer he chooses an American beer, made by American workers and an American-owned brewery."
Magic Hat's Martin Kelly said he was disappointed that an American-owned brew was not featured at the White House.
But we can draw some comfort from the fact that all the participants in the Rose Garden beer summit did drink their beers from glasses and not straight from the bottle.