Thursday, January 31, 2019

Episode 26: Presidente with Lori Rouse Mann

I. Introduction

"Is Eric wearing pants?"

From its independence in 1844 until the year 1916, well, the Dominican Republic had a rough go of it.  More than 50 presidents came and went, as well as 19 different constitutions.  Instability was the name of the game, and was only to grow worse as the world itself became generally more unhinged in the looming shadows of the First World War.  The internal chaos led government to grind to a meager pace in the Republic, including in terms of its ability to collect and redistribute income.

This was a problem – the Dominican Republic owed many nations a great deal of money, and with most of the great powers on war-setting, the failure of the small nation to pay its debts to the USA and other nations invited foreign interference.  Acting on the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine the US took this moment to invade the Republic, imposing its rule on until 1924. 

Five years later another American invasion, of a sort, would occur – Charles H. Wanzer, an American industrialist whose fortune was founded in light generators and petroleum development in Latin America founded a brewery in the city of Santiago.  It took awhile, another six years in fact, but eventually that brewery began selling the earliest version of the beer we’re discussing today.

Hold on!  In 1930 one of the nastiest characters in modern politics comes into absolute power in the Dominican Republic, Rafael “El Jefe” Trujillo – a cruel man responsible for tens of thousands of deaths – thanks to the combined efforts of a coup, some of the least subtle voter fraud in human history, and of course a rather nasty hurricane. Trujillo would rule the eastern half of Hispanola until 1961 when, on a dark road, he was shot by a group of conspirators.  While he ruled, however, it was generally considered sensible to butter Trujillo’s biscuits, so to speak, and so Wanzer and his co-investers named their beer after the dictator, if only indirectly – “Presidente.” 

A lot has happened since those dark days.  In the unstable years after Trujillo’s death there would eventually be a military uprising, prompting the US to fear the emergence of another Cuba and, predictably, invade, occupying the island this time from 1965 to 1966 and leading to the imposition of the kind of democracy one wouldn’t necessarily call free nor fair.  At around the same time Presidente beer made a major shift as well, from a dark beer to a light, pilsner-style – unsurprisingly, perhaps, an American style adjunct. 

The Republic would continue to be plagued by instability and illiberal rule until the end of the Cold War, stabilizing in the 1980s (when Presidente became the property of Grupo Leon Jimenes, a Dominican tobacco company) and achieving what political scientists would deem full democratization only in the 1990s.  But with the post-Cold War period came post-Cold War beer politics – including the Beer Wars, and eventually the little Dominican brewery that could found itself enmeshed in the machinations of two giants – AB InBev and Heineken.  In 2012 the former would finally win out, acquiring 51% shares in Presidente and dominance of the Caribbean market. 

Today's episode features music from “La Petite Ile (The Small Island)," 
recorded in Paris, 1935 by Germaine Sablon and Jean Sablon and 
accompanied by Andre Ekyan,  Alec Siniavine, Django Reinhardt, Louis Vola.

II. Our Guest, the Delightful Lori Rouse Mann

Yes, I did go through your Facebook until I found 
a picture of you with R2-D2 and Natty Light.

III. Rubrics, Reviews, and Talking Points

BeerAdvocate: 2.73 of 5

RateBeer: 1.97 of 5 

Untappd: 2.97 of 5 

ABV: 5%

Ingredients: Per the good people at Barnivore, water, malted barley, unmalted cereals, refined corn, sugar and hops

Cost: $ to $$ - in and of itself not expensive, but if you're in a location that requires purchase in a specialty shop, expect to go up to as high as eight bucks for a sixer. 

AppearanceTransparent and translucent with a sudsy, soapy head, golden yellow. A fair amount of Brussels lace.

Aroma: An immediate smell from the bottle.  Clayman's first impression was french fries from McDonald's - Eric merely noted it smelled malty and bready.  Fades quickly.

Flavor: Fairly typical adjunct beer.  Lori compared the flavor to Corona Familiar.  Sweet, malty, a definite session beer. Eric considers this to be more appropriate as a beer for eating; a 


Authenticity, Marketing, and Other Factors:  We haven't seen ads for this beer, but we don't discount that it might pushed effectively in metro-areas.  What we found online are fun and make us want to hit up a beach and relax with a cold one. No longer independent, and there seems to be some variation in the adjuncting mixture from earlier periods of time. Clayman lost his mind over them recommending the freezer, especially given that there are special Presidente humidfreezers (our word, not theirs, admittedly).

Overall: Lori gave Presidente a solid 3.75 of 5, Clayman a 3.25 of 5, and Eric dropped a 2.75 of 5.  Overall? We gave this Dominican pilsner a 3.25.

IV. Sponsors

Today we have two magical sponsors:

Leben Farms of Abingdon, Virginia

Leben Farms is a community supported-agriculture (CSA) program that offers locally grown fresh vegetables in weekly boxes to its members in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.  Using organic and regenerative practices to grow nutrient dense food, community-supported agriculture is a food production and distribution system that directly connects farmers and consumers. In short: people buy "shares" of a farm's harvest in advance and then receive a portion of the crops as they're harvested.

Check them out on Facebook or Instagram.


Glade Pharmacy in Glade Spring, Virginia
33472 Lee Hwy, Glade Spring, VA 24340

Locally owned and managed, Glade Pharmacy provides the highest quality pharmaceutical service in the Emory/Glade Spring area.

V. Plugs

Chilhowie, Virginia 

Marion, Virginia

Damascus, Virginia

Pay it Furloughed
Washington, DC

Radford University, Radford, Virginia
Abingdon, Virginia 

Abingdon, Virginia 

VI. Selected Readings and Viewings

Anonymous. June 27, 2018. "‘Más Fuerte’: 5 Questions With Presidente Beer’s Rebecca Chen." brandchannel.

Steve Bennett. May 15, 2015. "Cerveza Presidente, Gringo Beer with a Doubly Dark Past." Uncommon Caribbean. 

Laura Bisonó, María Belissa Ramírez, Carlos Andújar, Pedro J. Vega V., Luis Felipe Rodríguez, Blanca Mejía, curators. 2015. "Verde, Que Lo Quiere Fria." The Leon Cultural Center. * We hadn't found this source at the time of recording and it is particularly worth a look.  Apologies for not being able to give it a proper shout-out on the podcast itself.  Wonderful source!

Jennifer Booton.  April 16, 2016. "Anheuser-Busch Pays $1.2B for Dominican Presidente Beer." Fox Business.

Noz. July 20, 2015. "Review: Presidente." Beer O'Clock Australia.

Ronald Theriot. March 10, 2014. "Presidente Revisited." Louisiana Beer Review. 

VII. Selected Advertisements 

c. 2000s 

c. 2009

c. 2009

c. 2011

c. 2015

c. 2015

c. 2016


VIII. Más Fuerte

Description from the YouTube page:

“Más fuerte”, a film by Sean Frank, uncovers a scene of underground “musicologists” in NYC & the Dominican Republic through their custom sound vehicles. Learn more:

They manage to keep their culture alive, despite their often restrictive environments. From get-togethers at Santo Domingo gas stations to gatherings at secret spots across NYC boroughs, the film follows as they battle one another with the ear-shattering bass of their sound systems, living life at maximum volume, everywhere they go. As they say, Es ritmo, no ruido.  It’s rhythm, not noise.

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