There’s an old cliché in politics: Who’s the candidate voters would want to have a beer with?
It’s a euphemism for likability. But this year, it’s also something New Hampshire voters might actually be able to answer.
Microbreweries have joined diners, living rooms and town halls as go-to venues for face-time with the Democrats running for president.
For instance: At Liquid Therapy in Nashua last month, New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand held a campaign stop inside the old firehouse-turned-brewery.
There, she squared up for a beer pong throw. After a few tries, cheers erupted. Gillibrand sank a ping pong ball into a half-empty plastic cup.
“Did somebody get that? Because I’m gonna post that one,” she said triumphantly to her staff.
A few weeks later, the video of that same moment popped up in a campaign ad on this reporter’s Instagram feed. “If Kirsten makes this shot,” it asks as she throws, “will you donate a dollar?”
Breweries and pubs are full of that kind of marketable photo-op — and candidates are taking advantage of it.
This past weekend, Cory Booker visited one of New Hampshire’s northernmost breweries, in Littleton. Beto O’Rourke is campaigning at multiple bars across the state. And Gillibrand will visit another brewery in Hampton.
Her spokesman Evan Lukaske says these are good venues because they’re casual, and a way for the candidate to experience the state.
“She likes to mix it up,” he said. “She likes to taste all of New Hampshire’s great beers — I think this is our fourth or fifth brewery that we’ve been to.”
One even offered a beer named for Gillibrand — the Kirstenweizen. At Liquid Therapy last month, Lukaske says she chose one of the brewer's citrusy IPAs.
“She tends to enjoy the grapefruit-flavored beers,” he said. “I’ll let voters decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing.”
Perched on a barstool, Stephen Meno reserved judgment and drank a lavender chamomile IPA sour while he watched the scrum.
“It’s nice to sip on a cocktail while everyone just swarms and descends on these candidates,” he said.
Meno also saw California Sen. Kamala Harris at a bar in Manchester.
Another candidate who’s hit the New Hampshire brew trail is John Hickenlooper. The former Colorado governor ran his own brewpub before getting into politics, and he talked that up during a stop at a busy bar in Newmarket in March.
“I had a couple friends, and we opened a restaurant that brewed its own beer,” he said, to cheers, “in 1988, in an abandoned warehouse in an abandoned part of downtown Denver.”
But not every campaign event fits into such a small, laid-back setting. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg had planned on visiting a brewery in Manchester last month. But the expected crowd got so big that he moved his event to the more spacious Currier Museum of Art.
Back at Liquid Therapy, Chris Maloney of Massachusetts said the brewery setting is more his speed.
“This is actually very interactive,” he said. “I think everyone will have a chance to meet the candidate, which is different.”
That kind of intimacy suits more than just the barflies. Candidates — like Gillibrand — enjoy it too.
“I love this size because I can answer every question,” she said. “I can take every selfie, no one feels unheard, and they all have a chance to have a real conversation with me.”
A real conversation — and maybe a grapefruit or lavender beer to go with it.
This story was first published by New Hampshire Public Radio.
This segment aired on May 15, 2019.