Debating the Perfect Debate Beer

Area Man Drinks Beer brings you a craft beer primer for the final Presidential Debate of 2012, on Monday, November 6.

By Mike Loconto
Area Man Drinks Beer blog
Twitter: @Neighbeers

Many of us have noticed that this election year’s debate cycle has given rise to a number of positively absurd drinking games. Of course, if your idea of a great debate is a swig after every mention of a “five-point plan” and a chug for every “47 percent” reference, then this blog is not for you.

If, however, you like a quiet evening drink during your debate viewing, then let’s talk. For me, a beer after the kids go to bed is a way to unwind at the end of the day, and usually accompanies a ballgame, an episode of Homeland on TiVo, or around this time of year – some political discourse. In Massachusetts, we have a competitive U.S. Senate race with several live and televised debates, which when combined with the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates schedule, means we have one or two debates per week (and uber-junkies can get their national debate fix anytime on CSPAN).

In Massachusetts (and beyond), we are also lucky to have a politically astute craft brewing community. So in advance of next week’s final Presidential Debate (Monday, October 22, 9 pm), Area Man Drinks Beer is here to check the facts and provide you with a primer on the politically-themed craft beers brewed locally and further afield. Check these brews out and seek one out in time for Monday.

Patriots and Standard Bearers

Let’s start with a man we’re all familiar with: you know him by his iconic label and the inscription below his portrait, “Brewer – Patriot.”

Samuel Adams, brewed by The Boston Beer Company in Jamaica Plain, is of course named for one of the fathers of the American republic, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the fourth Governor of Massachusetts. He was also a failed brewer, but Jim Koch has more than made up for Adams’s shortcomings in that department since founding the Boston Beer Company in 1984. Samuel Adams brews a number of beers on a seasonal or year-round basis. The iconic and ubiquitous Boston Lager is an easy go-to; for a more radical theme, try the Revolutionary Rye Ale (and let me know what you think – I’ve yet to try it but love the rye character in a beer).

Out on the left coast, San Francisco-based 21st Amendment brews some of the best craft beer around, and distributes it in the most portable of all containers: cans. I’ve had several 21st Amendment styles and cannot recall a bad one – these guys know their brews. Two stick out in the political spectrum. If you have an affinity for our swing state neighbors in New Hampshire, try the Brew Free or Die IPA – an outstanding West Coast-style India Pale Ale loaded with bittersweet hops balanced against the caramel malt character that is familiar in a more traditional English IPA. If you happen to be an undecided voter (or just can’t handle the 7% ABV in the IPA), Bitter American is their sessionable Extra Pale Ale. This is another great go-to beer – a malty brew with moderate hops, and eminently drinkable. Depending on your candidate and their performance, a beer like this at 4.4% ABV may be the safe choice – because you may need more than one. Bonus: there’s a chimpanzee in a spacesuit on the label.

And for a more local, historical perspective, seek out the FlagRaiser IPA from Somerville’s Slumbrew. Flagraiser is an aggressively hopped India Pale Ale named for Somerville’s Prospect Hill and its unique place in history as the location where the Grand Union flag first flew. The Grand Union flag was the first flown by the American colonists that resembles today’s stars and stripes - George Washington ordered the flag raised atop Prospect Hill on July 1, 1776. Salute the electoral process with this exceptional brew, orange in color, with some nice citrus and pine notes – another local favorite.  Thanks to Roslindale craft beer fan and Twitterer (tweeter?) @AnzacMonster for this suggestion.

Going Rogue

A Bitter American may accurately capture your views on political discourse, but there are several other craft brews out there for alternative views. If you like your beer with a side of Howard Zinn, try The People’s Pint from Greenfield. Brown ales are my favorite (and an underrated) varietal, and the Farmer Brown is a nice example.

If you watched last week’s Vice-Presidential Debate and found yourself pining for the heady days of Admiral James Stockdale (if only we could get a vintner to bottle some H. Ross Pinot Noir!), then the Third Party Candidate might be for you. 3PC is a collaboration brew from Clown Shoes Beer of Ipswich and Three Heads Brewing of Rochester, New York, combining the hopped-up Imperial Amber from Clown Shoes, Eagle Claw Fist, and Three Heads’s own Loopy, an Oatmeal Red Ale.

I had this beer last week and really enjoyed it. I was already a fan of the Eagle Claw Fist, which really comes through in 3PC, but is smoothed out by the creamy texture of Loopy’s oatmeal base. I approved this beverage.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Recommends…

President Obama made history as the first president to brew beer in The White House with the recent revelation that he purchased homebrew equipment after taking office. The White House culinary staff has produced two brews, a Honey Ale and a Honey Porter, using honey cultivated from on-site beehives. The recipes were recently made public following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and several brewers have taken the opportunity to brew the beer, including The Boston Globe 99 Bottles columnist Gary Dzen. He brewed the Honey Ale, as did the Brooklyn Brewery’s venerable brewmaster Garrett Oliver in a project chronicled with The New York Times Dining columnist Eric Asimov earlier this week.

If you are not the homebrew type, then seek out Cambridge Brewing Company’s The Audacity of Hops, a play on one of the President’s book titles and originally brewed around election time in 2008. An excellent Belgian IPA, it is available locally in 22 oz. bottles. In a similar vein, Boulder, Colorado's Avery Brewing Co. produced a limited edition American Double IPA a few years ago called Ale to the Chief.

And while President Obama may have been the first to brew in The White House, plenty of relatives of the occupants at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have brewed. Billy Beer is perhaps the most famous, a lager contract-brewed by a number of small brewers in the late 1970s and promoted by Jimmy Carter’s brother, Billy. My father has had an unopened can of Billy Beer in the back of our refrigerator in Florida since that time. On a related note, if you need to remove paint or perhaps 12 ounces of accelerant, I have just the thing for you.

Something for the Neo-Cons

If the debates and the ensuing discourse lead you with an impending sense of fear, then the recently-released Belgian Quad from Chelsea’s Mystic Brewery, Day of Doom, may be for you. Across the pond but in a similar vein, Scotland’s Brew Dog created the world’s second strongest beer earlier this year, at 55% ABV, the End of History. It comes in a taxidermied squirrel, and I am not kidding. Of course, if you are the more proactive doomsayer type, let Brew Dog suggest three words: Tactical. Nuclear. Penguin.

Cheers, and remember to vote on Tuesday, November 6.

*Note: This article was cross-posted to Review Brews.

We have a rich craft beer constituency in West Roxbury (and beyond), and I want to provide it with a voice and a forum through this blog.  Send me your thoughts on the blog, event postings and ideas for future stories or reviews at neighbeers at gmail dot com or through twitter @Neighbeers.  And comments below, good or bad, are always appreciated.

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