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Democrats Campaign At Breweries


There's an old cliche in politics - and believe me, we get to all of them - who's the candidate voters would most like to have a beer with? Also a euphemism for likability. But increasingly, it's something voters in early primary states, including New Hampshire, may be able to answer. Microbreweries have joined diners, living rooms and town halls as the go-to venues for face time with Democrats running for president. New Hampshire Public Radio's Annie Ropeik has more.

ANNIE ROPEIK, BYLINE: The Liquid Therapy microbrewery sits in an old brick fire station in the New Hampshire city of Nashua. Inside, it's all polished concrete and big silver brewing tanks crammed behind walls with a big colorful chalkboard of the beers on tap. And in front of that chalkboard is New York Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, lining up a beer pong throw.


ROPEIK: Fifty or so voters mill around with their beers, watching Gillibrand square off with her staff. This is a campaign event, and every moment counts. After a few tries...


ROPEIK: ...Gillibrand sinks a pingpong ball into a half-empty plastic cup.

GILLIBRAND: Did somebody get that because I got to post that one?

ROPEIK: A few weeks later, the video of that same moment appears in a campaign ad on Gillibrand's Instagram. It asks as she throws, if Kirsten makes this shot, will you donate a dollar today?

Local breweries are full of this kind of marketable photo op, and candidates are taking advantage. Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and others have all swung by breweries in New Hampshire, Iowa and other key states at this stage of the campaign. Gillibrand spokesman Evan Lukaske says these brewpubs are a new, casual way to connect with voters where they live. One brewery Gillibrand visited in New Hampshire even named a beer for her, the Kirstenweizen. At Liquid Therapy, she chose a citrusy IPA.

EVAN LUKASKE: She tends to enjoy the grapefruit-flavored beers. I'll let voters decide whether that's a good or bad thing.

ROPEIK: Perched on a stool nearby, prospective voter Stephen Meno is reserving judgment. He drinks a Lavender Chamomile IPA Sour as he watches the scrum.

STEPHEN MENO: You know, it's nice to sip on a cocktail while everyone just, like, swarms and descends on these candidates and whatnot.

ROPEIK: Brewery managers get a kick out of these scenes, too. Molly Angstman co-owns Fat Hill Brewing in Mason City, Iowa. She says Beto O'Rourke and Elizabeth Warren both drew big crowds to her little pub. A bit chaotic, Angstman says, but a good way to bring in new customers.

MOLLY ANGSTMAN: They're not seeing us on a normal day, and they're definitely not there for the beer, so I'm not sure if they'll be back or not. But if a couple people come in, that's great.

ROPEIK: There's one candidate who even has a close connection to the brewery world, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.


JOHN HICKENLOOPER: I was lucky I had a couple friends, and we opened a restaurant that brewed its own beer in 1988.

ROPEIK: He ran a brewpub in Denver long before it was cool. That was him campaigning at New Hampshire's Stone Church music hall. Not every campaign fits into these smaller, laid-back settings. But if you ask candidates like Kirsten Gillibrand, just filling a space like Nashua's Liquid Therapy is enough for now.

GILLIBRAND: I love this size because I can answer every question, I can take every selfie. No one feels unheard, and they all have a chance to have a real conversation with me.

ROPEIK: A real conversation, and maybe a grapefruit or lavender beer to go with it. For NPR News, I'm Annie Ropeik in Concord.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Annie Ropeik reports on state economy and business issues for all Indiana Public Broadcasting stations, from a home base of WBAA. She has lived and worked on either side of the country, but never in the middle of it. At NPR affiliate KUCB in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, she covered fish, oil and shipping and earned an Alaska Press Club Award for business reporting. She then moved 4,100 miles to report on chickens, chemicals and more for Delaware Public Media. She is originally from the D.C. suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, but her mom is a Hoosier. Annie graduated from Boston University with a degree in classics and philosophy. She performs a mean car concert, boasts a worryingly encyclopedic knowledge of One Direction lyrics and enjoys the rule of threes. She is also a Hufflepuff.