Now that the White House has released the recipe for its Honey Ale, we were curious: how does it taste? Our colleagues at DCist are attempting to find out by brewing it up themselves, but since they'll need at least a month to get their batch ready for consumption, we reached out to a few local brewing experts to see what they thought of the recipe. Their overall conclusions: it's a pretty standard recipe, the ingredients (somewhat surprisingly) aren't very American-oriented, and the final result is likely to be pleasant and inoffensive, much like the current administration.
(A side note to those who haven't brewed before: there are two methods of brewing beer at home, both of which are discussed here. Partial-mash beer (the brewing method used in the White House recipe) is made primarily with malt extract, a syrupy goop derived from malted barley that provides most of the sugars that beer yeast eats in order to ferment; brewers can steep a smaller amount of "specialty" grain in the liquid, almost like a tea bag, to add some depth of flavor. All-grain beer is, as described, made only with malted barley-- all the fermentable sugars are extracted from real grains.)
The recipes released from the White House are pretty great. I think they have a nice balance of accessibility (being partial mash, using a mix of extract and specialty grains) to many levels of homebrewers. The main change we would do is to switch out the yeast to our house Saison yeast-- we love a bit more yeast character than you would get from a regular ale yeast like they call for. But overall, the recipe makes for a nice representation of the White House-- pragmatic, centrist, and populist. If only we could get our hands on some of that White House honey...
Leo Coronado of Berkeley's Oak Barrel Winecraft:
It seems like a dry, crisp everyday-drinking ale with some British bready malt character. The UK hop and yeast selection is an interesting choice, given that it's the White House. It's a solid extract recipe, but I'd be interested in brewing an all-grain version with U.S. malts, yeast, and hops.
Eric Brown of San Francisco Brewcraft:
That recipe is actually very standard for an English pale ale-- it uses English hops; the yeast they use, I believe, is from Austria and sold through an Australian company; and the way they have it written, using cans of malt extract, those cans generally come from Australia or England. The hops are traditional English hops, but they're also grown in the U.S.-- they didn't specify whether or not they were grown on U.S. soil. It has a lot of European ingredients, which I found odd because it's an American beer. The main thing that's American in that recipe is the honey from the White House garden. But if you're going to use foreign ingredients, England makes the most sense...this country grew out of England, we have a primarily English culture, we speak English, and England is still one of our biggest allies, so there's that.
It also has dextrose, which is corn sugar, and if it's not organic [the recipe doesn't specify], then that's made from genetically engineered corn, which fits with the federal level of politics and their way of thinking-- handing the country over to corporations to do whatever they want and write their own laws.
We've had several requests for that beer since the chef released the recipe, and we generally switch it up a little bit to include a base malt-- we use a little bit less of the malt extract and a little bit of base malt to give it a little more depth of flavor and body. But otherwise, the base recipe is fine.
If you want to try brewing up a batch of the Honey Ale yourself, Brewcraft and Oak Barrel are both familiar with the recipe, and have all the ingredients and equipment you'll need. Except maybe that sweet White House honey.