Red, Lite and Blue: The Beers Obama, Gates, Crowley Will Drink at White House

The president hopes to ease race-relations tensions over a cold beer.

July 27, 2009, 6:01 PM

July 29, 2009— -- The White House made its first decision about what will be the beverage of choice at Thursday's Suds Summit when President Obama sits down with Prof. Henry Louis Gates and the police sergeant who arrested him in an attempt to smooth over a racial furor. The decision either indicates the inclusive policies of the White House or that the three men couldn't agree on what to drink..

The president will drink Bud Light, White House Press Secretary Gibbs told reporters today. Gates has said he likes Red Stripe, while Sgt. James Crowley mentioned to the president that he prefers Blue Moon.

"So we'll have the gamut covered tomorrow afternoon," Gibbs added.

Weather permitting, the three will hoist a cold one on the picnic table next to the White House's new swing set around 6 p.m.

For days, people have been speculating about what the president would choose for Thursday's gathering? A lager? A porter? Maybe a wheat beer? Does he pick something light to help the men with the Washington, D.C., summer heat?

Gibbs's announcement aboard Air Force One today now clears the way for the Red, Lite and Blue summit.

"In the summertime people want something maybe just a little bit lighter, more refreshing. They're not going to go for a heavier stout or nut brown," Steen Sawyer, general manager of John Harvard's Brew House a few steps away from Harvard's campus in Cambridge, said when asked what he would pick earlier in the week.

Donna Brazile, an ABC News political consultant, suggested Boston-brewed Sam Adams. The beer is sold everywhere from police bars to academic haunts. (The New York Post also picked Sam Adams as the front runner.)

Choosing a drink is not an easy decision for politicians. During the heated Democratic primary in Pennsylvania Hillary Clinton pounded back a shot of Crown Royal whiskey and chased it with a beer. Obama visited a sports bar and sampled a Yuengling after making sure it wasn't ''some designer beer.''

Some had suspected that this time around the president might have instead choose to highlight a beer from his hometown of Chicago.

Goose Island, the city's largest brewery, provided the only beer at Obama's election night celebration in Grant Park, according to Anthony Bowker, the brewer's chief operating officer.

Beer From Obama's Hometown

That night, 3,000 bottles of Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat Ale and Honker's Ale were at the celebration. The brewery was started in 1988, at the beginning of the craft beer resurgence and is made using water from Lake Michigan.

The company sells its beer mostly around the Midwest but started to distribute to Washington after Obama's victory.

"Goose Island beers are available in D.C. now," Bowker said. "And it's all on the coattails of the president."

The presidential choice -- even though it is three beers -- could provide a big bounce for any beer maker. A presidential endorsement -- official or not -- sticks in people's minds.

Ask anybody what Bill Clinton ate during the 1992 presidential campaign and they are likely to mention McDonald's. And Michelle's Obama's selection of a J.Crew wardrobe brought the company massive spikes in orders, especially of outfits she has worn.

When asked by reporters at a briefing Monday about the beverage choice, Gibbs noted that Obama hoisted a Budweiser at baseball's All-Star Game earlier this month. Granted, however, the game was in St. Louis, home of Budweiser.

Gibbs also noted at that briefing that Crowley told the president he was more partial to Blue Moon.

"It's widely know that people have sat down together over a beer to resolve differences and disputes. We're happy to know that beer continues to be a beverage that brings people together for fellowship and our beer Blue Moon may be considered for the occasion," said Julian Green, a spokesman for MillerCoors, which owns Blue Moon.

"Blue Moon is a classic style of beer that is artfully crafted with an inviting twist and would be great for any occasion when people want to connect for a lighthearted moment," Green added.

Political Backlash for Blue Moon

Blue Moon, however, could be a problematic pick for the Democratic president, because while it is marketed as a small craft beer, it was actually created by Coors and today owned by MillerCoors. The Coors family has been a long-time supporter of the Republican party. Additionally, the AFL-CIO ran a decade-long boycott of the company's beer in the late 1970s and early '80s.

The Red Stripe for Gates could also be a problem. It is a foreign beer. The White House typically only stocks American beers, under a tradition dating to the Johnson administration.

Budweiser -- although apparently preferred by the President -- isn't a slam dunk either. Some could argue that the beer is no longer an American beer after being bought out by Belgian-Brazilian beer giant InBev, maker of Hoegaarden, Leffe and Stella Artois.

Devin Dinneen, general manager of Tommy Doyle's Irish Pub in Cambridge's Kendall Square, the bar that Crowley was in Friday when the president called, inviting him to the White House for a beer, offered some perspective. He was there on Friday when Crowley and some other police officers were eating lunch and Obama called.

"They're regulars at the bar because the [police] station is right around the corner from us in Cambridge," he said.

But Dinneen couldn't say any particular beer that Crowley likes to drink.

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