What a buzz: For Obama, beer a way to connect

Associated Press
President Barack Obama, right, stop to greet patrons watching college football at Bob Roe's Point After Pizza during an unscheduled visit, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in Sioux City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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President Barack Obama, right, stop to greet patrons watching college football at Bob Roe's Point After …

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama was barely back in Iowa, ready to drink in the adulation of supporters, when the booze news broke: The White House beer recipe is out.

The tweet from presidential spokesman Jay Carney along the motorcade ride seemed light enough — we're talking about honey-flavored beer here — but it also served up a reminder of a campaign imperative. Obama wants to be the guy with whom people want to have a beer.

As constituencies go, Obama would seem to have the voting bloc locked up, given that his opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, does not consume alcohol given his Mormon faith.

But as a political symbol, beer is not just about beer.

It is about the likeable, accessible, regular guy who relates to life in the real world and enjoys popping a cold one. Sure, taste counts, but so do votes.

Romney and Obama are both wealthy men who, in the final two months of the campaign, are trying to build support and turnout among the working-class crowd.

It is why Obama's day in Iowa was not just about his speeches in two cities, but his unexpected stop in Bob Roe's Point After Pizza & Lounge in Sioux City, where one woman wore a t-shirt that said "It's never too early to tailgate."

During his term, Obama has sought to find some racial harmony over beer (there was that media-hyped "beer summit" in the Rose Garden.) He has worked the crowds in sports bars and college bars. He has bought a round for folks at the Iowa State Fair, where the standard cry of political rallies — "Four More Years!" — morphed into the more memorable "Four More Beers!"

And now he even brews his own.

Well, the chefs at the most famous and powerful house in America brew it for him, but it was his idea, and he bought the brewing kit.

"Brewing beer is becoming a thing that Americans are doing in their houses and garages across the country," said White House chef Sam Kass in a video posted Saturday on the White House web site. "And the president certainly thought it would be a great idea to see if would join the American people in that time-honored tradition."

The Obama team knew it had a buzz going here.

Word spread about the home-brewed White House beer last month when Obama, during another stop in Iowa, got in a conversation with a local resident about it. The president had an aide bring the man a bottle of the beer brewed in the White House kitchen.

Since then, growing interest and even a petition drive led the White House to release the recipe just as Obama starts his battleground-state tour toward the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

"Ale to the Chief," said the White House blog post, which included a link to the brewing process.

The White House's rookie brew crew has made three kinds: Honey Brown Ale, Honey Porter and Honey Blonde Ale, although recipes for the first two only were released on Saturday. Kass said on-site historians have determined this is the first time alcohol has been brewed or distilled at the White House.

Add that to Obama's first-term record.

Should he lose, the White House bar menu may well look different. Romney drinks Cherry Coke Zero or Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi.

Even working the bar crowd can offer a little political risk. Just as Obama roamed the pizza place on Saturday, the Iowa fans who filled the place groaned as a long touchdown was scored against their team. "I don't want to be associated with that play," Obama told three men dejected as he came to their table.

Worse yet, their pitcher of beer was empty.

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Associated Press Writers Matthew Daly in Washington and Kasie Hunt in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this story.

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Follow Ben Feller at http://twitter.com/BenFellerDC

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