White House Honey Ale
In Celebration of President Barack Obama’s Second Term
How to Brew President Obama’s Honey Ale
President Obama’s White House Honey Ale is believed to be the first beer brewed at the White House and is a unique blend of Belgian, English and American influences. It is brewed with White House honey from the South Lawn, Amber Crystal and Biscuit Malts as well as Light Malt Extract and Light Dry Malt Extract. It is spiced with UK Kent Golding Hops and US Fuggles Hops.
President Barack Obama’s White House Honey Ale was released to the public on September 1, 2012 on the White House Blog in response to two Freedom of Information Act requests from homebrewers and attorneys Scott Talkov and Brodie Burks.
The White House Honey Ale’s style is a unique blend of Belgian Dubbel, English Ale and American Specialty. It is currently one of four styles brewed in the Obama White House and is believed to be the only beer brewed at the White House. The recipe calls for one pound of honey which is harvested from beehives cultivated on the White House South Lawn overseen by Michelle Obama.
Very few people have tasted the Original White House Honey Ale, and such lucky participants include the 200 guests that attended a White House Super Bowl party. In addition, when the recipient of a Medal of Honor, Sergeant Dakota Meyer, requested to have a beer with the President, President Obama agreed and the two shared a White House Honey Ale on the patio outside the oval office.
Fortunately for the general public, we now have an Original White House Honey Ale recipe we can brew for ourselves!
November 6, 2012 – Election Day
By the time election day came around, I had studied the White House Honey Ale and took great lengths to think about its ingredients and substitutions. Finally, I ordered my ingredients and hoped they would come in during the weekend, either to celebrate the President’s re-election, or to lament a fair yet disappointing departure.
It was necessary for me to make several substitutions, but here are the ingredients to the original recipe.
- 2 (3.3 lb) cans Light Liquid Malt Extract
- 1 lb light dried malt extract
- 12 oz crushed amber crystal malt
- 8 oz Biscuit Malt
- White House Honey
- 1 1/2 oz Kent Goldings Hop Pellets
- 1 1/2 oz Fuggles Hop pellets
- 2 tsp gypsum
- 1 pkg Windsor dry ale yeast
- 3/4 Cups Corn Sugar
Substituted Ingredients List
I’ve kept the main structure of the recipe intact but needed to make a few adjustments. The 6.6 pounds of light malt extract were going to stay, as was the one pound of light dried malt extract, of which I used the Maltoferm Organic Light Dried Malt Extract DME. The 12 ounces of crushed amber crystal malt were the same, and I also used 8 ounces of Biscuit Malt.
Since the yeast provides a specific flavor profile in any recipe, I used the original package of Windsor Dry Ale Yeast.
For the hops, I substituted pellet hops for whole leaf hops, and since pellet hops are absorbed more efficiently in the boil, I increased the amounts to 2 ounces of Kent Goldings Hops and 2 ounces of Fuggles Hops.
I also substituted corn sugar for natural raw washed Demerara cane sugar and lowered the amount to ⅔ cups, since it is less refined. I boiled the sugar, along with an extra heaping tablespoon of honey in one and a half cups of water for the priming. I did away with the gypsum since my water already has plenty of calcium ions, as well as lots of other natural nutrients in it since it is water pumped in from a front lawn well.
For the main ingredient, it was an absolute that I substitute the White House Honey. I would love not only to have access to fresh South Lawn honey for the beer, but also for our family’s health and enjoyment. I instead took the opportunity to search for the healthiest honey I could find. I found YS Organic Bee Farms Certified Organic Raw Honey with all the goodness that comes from raw, unprocessed, unpasteurized honey including live enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healing agents. Not only have I used it in the recipe, but am enjoying it with my family and replacing all our future honey with it!
The recipe may have a few of my touches, and though I probably should have kept it true to the original, I find in life that it’s just as important to be happy.
November 9, 2012 – The Congratulatory Brewing!
In honor of the President’s second term and monumental accomplishment, the weekend immediately following the elections would be the perfect time to start brewing President Obama’s Original White House Honey Ale.
To get started, I had to bottle an original Cascadian IPA and rack an Imperial IPA to get them out of the way and the process started. The event took me into the late hours of the evening and well past the kids’ betimes that gave the house an unfamiliar quiet allowing for my first filming – notice how stiff I am!
Again here there are alterations. The original recipe calls for the following instructions:
- In an 12 qt pot, steep the grains in a hop bag in 1 1/2 gallons of sterile water at 155 degrees for half an hour. Remove the grains.
- Add the 2 cans of the malt extract and the dried extract and bring to a boil.
- For the first flavoring, add the 1 1/2 oz Kent Goldings and 2 tsp of gypsum. Boil for 45 minutes.
- For the second flavoring, add the 1 1/2 oz Fuggles hop pellets at the last minute of the boil.
- Add the honey and boil for 5 more minutes.
- Add 2 gallons chilled sterile water into the primary fermenter and add the hot wort into it. Top with more water to total 5 gallons. There is no need to strain.
- Pitch yeast when wort temperature is between 70-80˚. Fill airlock halfway with water.
- Ferment at 68-72˚ for about seven days.
- Rack to a secondary fermenter after five days and ferment for 14 more days.
- To bottle, dissolve the corn sugar into 2 pints of boiling water for 15 minutes. Pour the mixture into an empty bottling bucket. Siphon the beer from the fermenter over it. Distribute priming sugar evenly. Siphon into bottles and cap. Let sit for 2 to 3 weeks at 75˚.
To start off, I already had a 32 Quart Brew Kettle and have been enjoying doing full boils for flavor and convenience. It also helps me take the original gravity right after the boil has cooled down. So my instructions were as follows:
- 1. Add 5.5 gallons to a 32 Quart Brew Kettle, then steep the grains at 155 degrees for thirty minutes while letting the water slowly rise to 170 degrees
- .Take a cup of wort and let cool to 80 degrees, then rehydrate the yeast
- Add the 2 cans of malt extract and one pound of dried malt extract and bring to a boil, this starts the 60 minute boil.
- For the first flavoring, add 2 ounces of Whole Leaf Kent Goldings Hops and boil for 45 minutes.
- For the second flavoring, add 2 ounces of Whole Leaf Fuggles Hops at the last minute of the boil.
- Add one pound of honey and let boil for five minutes – this one I got wrong and added five minutes BEFORE the end of the boil! No biggie!
- Cool the wort to 90 degrees then transfer to a glass carboy
- Take a sample to a hydrometer for an original gravity reading
- Pitch the rehydrated yeast, then fill the airlock with Isopropyl Alcohol
- Let ferment in a dark place between 68 and 72 degrees for 14 days (I like to let the yeast take in as much as possible, plus I’m on a two week rotation with all my brewing events).
- Rack to a secondary fermenter for an additional 14 days
- Dissolve Demerara cane sugar and honey in one and a half cups of boiling water, add to the bottling bucket, distribute the beer evenly, then siphon to bottles and cap. Let the bottles age at 75 degrees for two weeks.
In the end, both methods will get you a nice beer at six weeks, but the Demerara cane will add a different and noticeable texture, slightly drier and if tasted unaged, a bit sweeter. The carbonation is also a bit more unpredictable, and the corn sugar more reliable. But I got into homebrewing to have more control of myingredients and improve on their selections as I mature as a homebrewer. I’m pleased to say that I’ve never used corn sugar and have always had lively carbonated home brew!
November 25, 2012 – Thanksgiving Weekend Racking!
Once ready, I took an auto-siphon and quickly started the process of transferring the five gallons of the White House Honey Ale into the carboy. Within fifteen minutes, all was transferred and ready to be stored for an additional two weeks at 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. I kept some of the yeast to bottle re-ferment a small sample as a special presidential reserve.
I took a gravity reading which came in at 1.020, giving it a current politically correct alcohol content of 4.53% alcohol by volume.
December 7, 2012 – Time to get Bottling!
I always clean my bottles well and give them a soaking bath in Star San, which includes two cases of brown 12 ounce bottles along with six 750 milliliters champagne bottles.
The priming consisted of the ⅔ raw Demerara cane sugar along with one heaping table spoon of the remaining organic raw honey, boiled for at least ten minutes over one and a half cups of boiling water. I then transferred the priming sugar and the beer simultaneously to my bottling bucket to allow the primer to mix evenly throughout the brew.
I took a final gravity reading of the White House Honey Ale which came in at1.016, giving it a surprisingly healthy final alcohol content of 5.07% alcohol by volume!
I harvested some of the Windsor Yeast and revived it for a secondary bottle refermentation, adding five milliliters to each of my champagne bottles. In all, I had five champagne bottles on thirty six 12 ounce bottles along with an old (but well cleaned and sterilized) Mr. Beer plastic bottle. The Mr. Beer plastic bottle allows me to know when the beer has finished carbonating. The bottle is soft when filled, but firms as the carbon dioxide builds pressure within the bottle.
Now it was time to store once again for two to three weeks in 75 degree temperature. Two of the champagne bottles were for the inauguration celebration on January 21, 2013, while now three champagne bottles of the White House Honey Ale were for my private reserves.
The other thirty six twelve ounce bottles were for sharing and enjoying as during the wait.