Charge of ‘Beer Orgy’ Angers White House

White House honey ale
White House honey ale

That’s a pretty good attention grabbing headline from the Washington Post. And I think this is appropriate, given the current media focus on the White House’s home brewed beer. There was even an official response by the White House regarding the current beer recipe as well as a Wikipedia page.

This one was published on September 30th, 1934 about claims of a slightly out of control party thrown at the White House.

An expression of surprised indignation was the White House reaction yesterday to a report, rejected by the New Jersey Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which criticized President and Mrs. Roosevelt for an alleged hilarious beer party in the Executive Mansion last winter.

The White House party in question was given last January 30–the Saturday before New Year’s–for the President’s children and their friends, including a number of newspapermen. The United Press, quoting one of those present, said:

“It was entirely sedate and formal. There were two kegs of 3.2 beer, the unsightly portions covered with napkins. About 500 guests were present and there wasn’t more than one glass of beer for each. The only other beverage was punch and it was not spiked. Nobody could get drunk on that. Nobody was tipsy.

I’m not sure how January 30 is before New Year’s. The paper probably mistyped it. Nevertheless, this is important because Prohibition was not officially repealed in Washington until March 1st, 1934, when the first legal drinks were consumed in D.C.

legalize beer cartoon by Pat Enright
legalize beer cartoon by Pat Enright

The article continues …

Deets Pickett, research secretary of the National Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals, commented:

“I think that President Roosevelt believes there is no particular harm in beer and a great deal in whisky, and that the proper policy would be to let the beer traffic run and keep whisky down to an absolute minimum … Sooner or later I think we will be justified in going to him and asking action, and I believe he will strike a blow at the liquor traffic.”

So, FDR was a beer man? I kind of see him as a wine person. Obama is apparently a beer man. Check out the video below.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • If I recall correctly, not all beer was outlawed during Prohibition. You could still have low alcohol beer.

    • RC Brown

      You are correct, the Volstead Act permitted below 0.5% ABW; but this was 3.2%.

  • 3.2 was legal starting in 1933.

  • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley

    Although I do NOT drink, I adore Franklin Roosevelt. We have an antique clock featuring FDR standing behind a giant pilot’s wheel with the slogan across the base reading: ‘SAIL ON O’ SHIP OF STATE.’ Within the face of the clock – which is in the center of the wheel – is a special ‘Second-hand.’ It is a line drawing of a bartender. His arm moves back ‘n forth as he shakes a tiny cocktail shaker, thus acting as the clock’s second-hand. THIS small feature was the same as putting a DATE on the clock as it represented the ‘End of Prohibition’ with the beginning of the era of Roosevelt. (These clocks were also made with: Truman, MacArthur and even the popular prize fighter, Joe Lewis’s likeness at the ship’s wheel!)
    We also have an antique glass ‘Volstead Pup.’ These are small glass decanters with removeable heads, which serve as the lid. A Volstead Pup’s body is molded like a dog sitting upright on it’s hindlegs; the dog’s face is Congressman Volstead, the man who authored the legislation establishing Prohitition. When you pour liquid (booze?) out of the pup’s bottle-neck, supposedly it makes a cry’n glug-glug sound!