What Brands Will Be Served At Beer Summit?

At the White House Thursday, President Obama will share a beer with police sgt. James Crowley and the Harvard University professor Crowley recently arrested, Henry Louis Gates Jr. The meeting is meant to diffuse tensions surrounding the arrest. But what kind of beer will they be drinking?

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

The eyes of a beer-drinking nation will be on a White House picnic table this evening.

(Soundbite of bottle top popping and beer pouring)

WERTHEIMER: President Obama plans to sit down and share a cold one with a black professor and the white police sergeant who arrested the Harvard academic. The incident became a national discussion, and the president hopes to settle things down. Nothing is that simple, of course, not even the choice of beer.

NPR'S Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: The president wants to lower the temperature. And what better way to do that than by sharing a frosty beer with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the man who put Gates in handcuffs, Jim Crowley? But what beer? In a story already foaming with distinctions of race and class, would beer be the great equalizer or just another wedge?

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Spokesman): As I understand it, professor Gates said he liked Red Stripe, and I believe Sergeant Crowley mentioned to the president that he liked Blue Moon. So we'll have the gamut covered.

HORSLEY: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president himself will drink Bud Lite. It's as if Mr. Obama, having gone out on a limb once already in this case, has now decided to play it safe. Industry consultant Tom Pirko of Bevmark notes Bud Lite is the most popular beer in America. Pirko suspects Mr. Obama is aiming for an all-American, Everyman appeal. Never mind that Anheuser-Busch, which makes Bud Lite, is now owned by Belgians and Brazilians. The professor and the policeman's beers are equally symbolic, Pirko says - Red Stripe with its Jamaican pedigree, and Blue Moon striving for craft beer credibility, though it's actually made by Coors. All three men at the table have their roles to play, Pirko says. They're drinking politics, not beer.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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