DRAFT PICKS: Exploring the politics of beer

Yes, class. Rather than simply wash our election-year pain away with a good lager or a fine ale, we’re going to talk about beer and politics.

It’s important stuff.

Since a few elections back, one of the questions often asked - either directly or hypothetically - was and is “Who would you rather have a beer with ...?”

I believe the question was first asked when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore. He won - both the survey and the election.

Then, when Bush was running against John Kerry, the questions was raised again. Mr. Bush smoked the competition by a long shot - then he won the election. I mean sure, Kerry is probably a nice guy, but to sit and have a beer with either/or. Heck, even I would choose Bush!

So now, the same question is being asked about President Obama and Gov. Romney.

The answer is a no brainer.

Obama. Look, the guy brews his own beer.

Also, one can’t help but remember that Romney is a Mormon and does not drink beer at all.

It’s no contest.

I’d be worried Romney would just sit there and stare and me disapprovingly. (I get enough of that already.)

There’s a long history of presidents in these United States who enjoyed the brewing arts.

Washington was the first - president that is. He also was a unabashed fan of beer - and beer was VERY popular back then.

“When the Constitution was adopted many housewives still brewed small beer for their families, and for 50 years thereafter numerous village breweries continued in operation with an equipment and a volume of business hardly exceeding those of a village bakery.

“The President himself, as usual, was indulging his taste for good beer. On the day when New York was finally evacuated in 1783, General Washington had stopped at the old Bull’s Head Tavern (located on the street which later became the Bowery) for a draught of ale. His headquarters when he was in New York City had been at the inn kept by Samuel Fraunces, whom he appointed his household steward when he later assumed the Presidency.

“Once, of course, he had bought his beer from English suppliers, but no longer. His wife also seemed to have learned the same lesson. In May 1789, en route from Mount Vernon to join the President in New York, Martha Washington stopped off in Philadelphia and entertained some distinguished guests, among them the brewer Robert Hare. A list of what the guests drank reads as follows:

“Ten bottles of Madeira, one bottle of champagne, 2 bottles of claret, 45 bowls of punch, 10 bottles of American porter, one bottle of Taunton Ale, 2 bottles of crab cider.” (From Brewed In America by Stanley Baron, 1962.)”

Washington brewed beer at Mount Vernon. He also ran a pretty serious distilling operation.

As president, Washington wasn’t alone in his appreciation of an evening drink.

John Adams began smoking at the age of eight, started drinking at 15, and lived to the ripe old age of 90.

Franklin Pierce may well have been the heaviest drinker in the White House. After one term in office, his party (the Democrats, by the way), didn’t nominate him as candidate for another term. Pierce responded saying: “There’s nothing left but to get drunk.”

And there were more, believe me. There were others.

Which brings us to today.

In an article published by the National Journal discussing a recent poll by Scarborough Research, it turns out what beer you drink may often hint at what party affiliation you enjoy.

“Drinking a lot of Sam Adams ...likely means you’re a Republican,” noted the National Journal report. “Those who drink Sam Adams, the patriot of beers, are more likely to vote Republican. They’re also more likely to vote than those who drink, say, Natural Light.

“Heineken fans are more likely to be Democrats than any other beer drinkers. But they aren’t a particularly strong voting block. Heineken drinkers turn out at the polls to vote at relatively low levels.

“Bud Light drinkers may be legion, but they don’t have any particular political allegiance.

“Budweiser drinkers skew further toward Democrats than Bud Light drinkers, but they vote at an almost identical rate as their Bud Light brethren, which is to say, they are slow to exercise their constitutional prerogative.

“Make of this what you will: The voters who skew most Democratic while maintaining a high level of turnout drink Molson. The Canadian beer. Voter fraud conspiracy? We’ll draw no conclusions.”

An interesting study. You can read the entire offering at the National Journal website. I’m not sure of the accuracy of the methodology, but it sure is interesting that someone made the effort.

And now, your homework.

THIS WEEK’S DRAFT PICKS

Harvest Ale

Goose Island Beer Co.

Chicago, Illinois

This Harvest Ale is tagged as a Strong Bitter, but A) with 5.60 percent ABV is doesn’t have that much kick, and B) it wasn’t too tough, harsh, or acidic on the taste buds. I’m simply more used to ‘bitters’ being a lot more hoppy and sometimes even metallic.

This is a nice looking brew with a dark orange, almost amber color. There was quite a bit of well-developed head that lasted a decent time before leaving traces of light beige lacing.

The ale is on the hazy, almost cloudy side of things. Still, you can easily see the carbonation feeding the head as you investigate the color and clarity.

There is something of a flat, bready smell at first nose. Don’t, however, leave it at that. Come back for a good second and third go-around and scent out the background hoppiness with a tinge of herbal aroma.

Things change almost dramatically when you take your first mouthful. A certain maltiness kicks in and there is a real creaminess to the brew - a mouth-feel to which I am definitely partial.

There is a little caramely poke lurking in the background, but not enough to cover up the hops and more floral flavors.

By scent, you’d never know this was a “Strong Bitter.” After tasting, you can definitely tell that this is heading in that direction - although more mildly so.

Truth be known, I’ve had better ales out of the Goose Island operation. I quite like them.

This was nice. Not the greatest, but definitely a good seasonal

I might suggest this as a counter to grilled meats - especially those of the encased variety.

Great while sitting around an autumn campfire.

Guinness Black Lager

Guinness Ltd.

Dublin, Ireland

A short story ...

The first time I ever tasted Guinness, (the stout version), I was wandering through the Old City of Jerusalem dying of thirst.

I saw a bottle in one of the pocket shops that dot that part of the world, thought I would be ever so classy, paid for the drink, and settled down on the curb to assuage my thirst.

I took a big slug. It was horrible.

Arguable the worst drink I have eve had. Lukewarm. Overly foamy. Probably years, (if not generations), past it shelf-life date.

Unfairly, I have never had a Guinness since that time, although I know that many, many explorers swear by this legendary brew.

So, I was happy to see that Guinness had gone the lager route.

I can try that ...and I did.

And I am well pleased. The Black Lager pours very, very dark with a beautiful, fluffy head that maintains for quite a long time.

It looked absolutely luxurious in my glass.

The first scent of roasted grains is strong but not overwhelming. I was very pleased because this lager turned out to be much more malt forward than would many of the same brew-line.

There was very little hoppiness, but rather the almost ale-like caramel tones with hints of light espresso make this just my type of brew.

It was a bit too carbonated to be called creamy, but there certainly was an almost velvety mouth-feel - despite the long lasting bubbliness

I really enjoyed this brew, and highly recommend it - even to those who have had bad Guinness experiences.

This is a different cup of beer.

I’m glad I tried it.

Black Lager can certainly hold its own with any good beef dish. I’ll bet you it would be a wonderful complement to a grandma-esque pot roast and a stack of boiled vegetables. Shades of Ireland!