Lawmakers put their beer brewing skills to test for charity

Nine lawmakers faced off on Wednesday night in the inaugural Brew Across America Congressional Brewing Competition, with Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) taking top prize.

The competition was sponsored by Anheuser-Busch and the lawmakers worked closely with breweries in their districts, picking out local ingredients to give a regional flair to each beer. Many were brewing for the first time.

“It’s nice to have something unpolitical off the Hill where people can take pride in their home state,” said Smith, whose "Gateway IPA" beat out eight other beers.


A panel of 10 beer experts and media members, including Bob Cusack, The Hill’s editor-in-chief, judged the entries at the event at Eastern Market.

Democratic Rep. Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyDem rep says lower tax refunds are 'bad news' for the economy Dem rep says refunds are low because GOP tax policy doesn't benefit most Americans House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership MORE added raspberries from her home state of Ohio to a classic India pale ale. Brewing the beer right took time: The first batch didn't cut it, and Beatty said they threw it out.

“We started over to get it perfected,” she said.

During the event, Beatty said many attendees returned for the "Oh Beatty Berry Brew."

“More people have been here for repeat and said they like the flavor and the coloring, so if the people were voting we would take first place,” she said. 

The judges, though, awarded it third place.

Doug Bailey, Anheuser-Busch vice president of industry affairs,  said the contest grew out of the visits members of Congress make to businesses in their districts. 

“We kinda got to thinking it would be probably be fun if they actually started brewing beer,” Bailey said.

From there, the idea took off. Instead of simply touring the breweries, the members could get involved in the process.

Bailey said the natural next step was to bring the congressional microbrews back to Washington and crown a winner with a trophy, a keg of their creation and — most importantly — bragging rights for the year.

Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarLeft flexes muscle in immigration talks Immigration groups press for pairing Dreamer benefits with border security Lawmakers haggling over border dollars much lower than Trump's demand MORE’s (D-Calif.) breezy “For Pete’s Sake IPA” finished second.

Aguilar cried foul, joking that the brew-off was rigged because Anheuser-Busch’s headquarters are in Smith’s home state of Missouri.

“I’m sampling Jason’s beer. It’s a good beer,” Aguilar said after the trophy was awarded. “I knocked the keg over on my way out, but I don’t feel that that’s being bitter at all, I feel that that’s just being competitive.”

The event was also intended to showcase Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that partners with Anheuser-Busch to give educational scholarships to the families of fallen and disabled service members. 

Also participating were Reps. Al LawsonAlfred (Al) James LawsonGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Lawmakers trade barbs, torch Trump at DC soiree House Dem opposition mounts to budget deal MORE (D-Fla.), Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Scott Taylor (R-Va.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), along with Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetMichael Bennet is close to deciding on possible presidential bid Senators ask CBO to review options for preventing surprise medical bills Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (D-Colo.).

Other judges included Paul Kane of The Washington Post, Carl Hulse of The New York Times, Sue Davis of NPR, Sam Stein from The Daily Beast, Josh Dawsey from Politico, Warren Rojas from EaterDC, Jim McGreevy of the Beer Institute, Craig Purser of the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Jane Killebrew from Anheuser-Busch.