Presidential Beer History
In observance of President’s Day we take a look back at how much those who have held the office of President appreciated beer. As a matter of fact, beer was considered safer than water when the Pilgrims arrived, and they landed where they did because they were running out of beer.
Starting with our founding fathers who penned the Constitution through modern times, beer has been on the table in the White House (and other presidential residences) since the beginning. Our forefathers drank a session beer while writing the Constitution, so who says it’s bad to drink while you work?
Our first president not only enjoyed drinking beer but he also made his own. Washington liked English style porter and kept plenty of it on hand while also brewing a ‘small beer’, aka a light ale, at his plantation.
Our third president was also a homebrewer but was much more serous about it than Washington was – Jefferson studied the science behind brewing and was constantly perfecting his recipes. He also had a state of the art brewery built on his estate so he could put his studies into action.
Our fourth president may have been the most beer friendly of all – he proposed building a brewery that would be run by the federal government and appointing a Secretary of Beer on his cabinet. What made that particularly remarkable was that he spent his life fighting for less government. Beer was clearly an exception but sadly neither item came to light.
Rutherford B. Hayes
We list our 19th president not as a milestone but instead as the first presidential beer hall of shame member. His wife demanded that the White House be void of any alcohol and he did as she demanded. Shame, shame.
Our 26th president loved his beer to the point of brining 500 gallons back from a safari in Africa. That isn’t actually true – it’s a myth. Reality is that Theodore Roosevelt did not drink beer, or much at all, except an occasional Mint Julep. However Teddy Roosevelt knew that beer was powerful, and while training the Rough Riders in Texas, he bought the men all the beer they could drink as a morale booster.
Number one on the hall of shame list is our 28th president who during WWI signed a law shutting down all of the nations breweries to conserve the grain used for beer to be used for the troops. The law never was repealed, but instead segued into the passing of the 18th amendment – prohibition.
Our 32nd president wasted no time after being sworn in to legalize alcohol once again, even ahead of the Congress repealing the 18th amendment (via passing of the 21st) which lifted all federal bans. Franklin Roosevelt may in fact be considered America’s beer hero. During a press event to reveal the new law legalizing alcohol, President Roosevelt had bottles given to each member of the press.
Our 35th president was faced with a Soviet threat, came close to a nuclear war, and some other tough situations – so he certainly needed to drink. Sure he enjoyed his Daiquiris, his gin + tonic, and his French wines but his beverage of choice was beer – Heineken to be exact.
While our 36th president did his best to carry out many of the goals set forth by President Kennedy, he disapproved of foreign alcohol being served at the White House, at government functions or any embassy of the US worldwide. He ordered a ban on such beverages and made it mandatory to serve domestic beer, wine, and liquor.
Our 39th president doesn’t often appear on too many lists that thank him for anything he did while president. He as a bit of a dud actually and responsible for putting an end to the three martini lunch. He however made up for that sin by signing a bill allowing for homebrewing to once again be legal in the United States.
Our current and 44th president had a well publicized ‘beer summit’ over some racial tensions but what we are more impressed with is that like past presidents, President Obama is a homebrewer and was kind enough to share the recipes used at the White House.
Saratoga Beer Week happens from February 19th through 23rd in Saratoga Springs, NY. Prices to various events vary and are available online. If you love beer and a week of nothing but beer sounds good to you, then the Saratoga Beer Week is your kind of a week. It’s worth using up that rollover vacation time from last year, if you have it. Or just come for one day. Or two. Or the entire week – it’s entirely up to you.