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Bud Or Blue Moon? Obama's Beer Diplomacy On Tap

Here's the big question for the beer industry this week: What are the happy hour specials at the White House?

On Thursday, President Obama, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley plan to sit down for a beer. The three men, surrounded by their families, will raise their glasses at the picnic table outside the Oval Office, weather permitting.

Asked if there would be pretzel or chips present, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs quipped, "We're just going to go straight beer. No sense in diluting it." No word yet on whether beer nuts will be served.

Thursday event will likely be one of the biggest photo-ops of the year, the culmination of the firestorm that erupted after Mr. Obama weighed in on Crowley's arrest of Gates at his own home. Mr. Obama initially suggested that the officer had acted "stupidly" – a comment he later walked back – setting off a debate over race that diverted attention from his health care efforts.

Thursday's reconciliation toast isn't just a memorable moment in America's conversation on race, of course. It's also a marketing opportunity. The beers that the men decide to put to their lips will get enormous exposure, not to mention the implicit endorsement of those present.

The White House has suggested that the president will drink Budweiser, the same beer he had at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. (That game, it's worth noting, was held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, so Mr. Obama couldn't very well opt for a Miller Genuine Draft.) Crowley is said to be a fan of Blue Moon, the Belgian Wheat Ale often served with an orange slice.

Gates, meanwhile, is partial to Red Stripe and Beck's, according to the Boston Globe. CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Tuesday characterized Beck's as a straight ahead pilsner, "foreign without being froo froo," while Red Stripe, from Jamaica, is more akin to a "vacation in a can."

"Did [Crowley and Gates] get their beer choices switched at birth?" Smith wondered in his daily radio commentary. "Or are their beer choices more a reflection of their aspirations? Skip Gates wanting to be more macho? Sgt. Crowley wanting to seem more mellow?"

Also worth noting the great beer debate is the fact that Blue Moon is brewed by MillerCoors. And the Coors family has long been tied to the Republican Party.

Sarah K. Smith, writing for NBC New York, joked yesterday that the beer industry engineered the entire Gates controversy to drum up sales. (At least, Hotsheet thinks she was joking.)

"Consider: virtually every consumer choice the president makes becomes national news and a major product placement opportunity," she wrote. "He gets a Portuguese water dog, everybody wants a Portuguese water dog. He gets a hamburger with Dijon mustard, everybody wants a hamburger with Dijon mustard (those who don't despise him for wanting fancy Dijon mustard, that is). Now that he's having the professor and the cop over for beers, does he honestly think that America won't be watching to see what kind of beer they're drinking?"

As Smith noted, the Globe reported that Red Stripe and Beck's may not make the cut Thursday. Foreign brews are not stocked at the White House, the newspaper noted, "under a tradition dating to the Johnson administration."

That said, you could make a similar case against Budweiser, which is now affiliated with the Belgium-based InBev. Bud, however, still has American pop-culture connotations; the same cannot be said for InBev product Stella Artois, which Mr. Obama would likely not bring to an all-American photo op.

Yet the case can be made that the occasion calls for something other than a Bud. And we want to know: What do you think the president should serve Thursday? A classic standby like Budweiser, or something a bit less well-known that could use the boost? Maybe he should opt for something from his hometown of Chicago? Or perhaps Sam Adams, in honor of both the founding fathers and the area where the Gates/Crowley incident took place?

Let us know what you think below.

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