Last week while campaigning for re-election, President Barack Obama confirmed that the White House does indeed brew its own beer called White House Honey Ale, and on Tuesday it was revealed there are at least three instances of the general public making public records requests to obtain the recipe.
It was first reported by the Government Executive blog, where a user by the name of "John L." created an online petition on August 18 on the White House's website, And as of today, it has 3,423 signatures, far less than the 21,577 that sponsors think is needed by September 17 for the White House to take it seriously.
"Following in the footsteps of great men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, Barack Obama has reportedly been enjoying the rewards of home brewed beer," the petition states. "In keeping with the traditions of the founding fathers, homebrewers across America call on the Obama Administration to release the recipe for the White House home brew so that it may be enjoyed by all."
A Reddit user even made a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of the recipe. The last sentence of the letter requests an autographed list of ingredients from the president: "If you could send me a copy autographed by the President, you'd be the coolest FOIA officer in the whole federal government, and who could resist that title?"
A very passionate request indeed. But couldn't someone with a bit more legal training make a better case for disclosure? It already happened: Scott Talkov, a California attorney and avid home brewer, made a more informed request just yesterday, citing specific Supreme Court cases and more obscure sections of the United States Code.
Talkov even requested the identity of the White House brewmeister and receipts for all of the brewing equipment.
But seriously, considering that the Obama administration is the first to brew beer at the White House, it should at least release its beer recipe(s) to the general public. There are several reasons why, so let's take the time to delineate a few.
According to the Freedom of Information Act of 1966, there are nine exemptions when it comes to releasing info to the public. Unless the beer recipe is a matter regarding national security or foreign policy (exemption 1), or if a specific law calls for the recipe to remain secret (exemption 3), we can't think of any other reason why it should remain hidden from the People. We in the media generally agree think all FOIA requests should be honored.
However, the president can still assert executive privilege. But why would he want to do that? After all, the sharing of beer recipes between home brewers is a time-honored tradition. Besides, we're in the age of information, so leaking brewing info has become more easier than ever through sharing networks like Hopville.com or smartphone apps such as iBrewMaster (although it costs $15).
Yet not everyone who drinks beer actually brews it themselves. Some people would just rather not be bothered by such a tedious chore and prefer to buy it from a vendor, hence a commercial interest and right now any commercial interest holds the potential to create jobs.
Oh yeah, and one more: How could we forget when Obama back in 2009 said "transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones" of his presidency?
White House Honey Ale sounds like a delicious brew to drink. Now