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There's bipartisan cooperation brewing on Capitol Hill...over beer


So much ails Congress these days - disagreements over President Biden's domestic agenda and the January 6 insurrection. Well, NPR's Barbara Sprunt found some unexpected bipartisan cooperation brewing on Capitol Hill over beer.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida is setting the bar high for multitasking at work.

KAT CAMMACK: Being a brewmaster was not on my list of things to accomplish in this lifetime, but I got to tell you, it's been a pretty cool experience.

SPRUNT: She's on one of five congressional teams in the Anheuser-Busch 4th Annual Brew Across America competition, where lawmakers work with breweries in their home states to create a new small-batch beer. And then this competitive bunch comes back to D.C. to see whose beer is best.

CAMMACK: I am the queen of smack talk on Capitol Hill.

SPRUNT: But one lawmaker is spared her smack talk. Every brewer had to have a buddy from the other side of the aisle, a new requirement this year. Cammack's teammate is California Democrat Sara Jacobs. The pair bonded early on as the two youngest women in their freshman class. They decided to brew an orange and vanilla beer, but creativity isn't what the judges - a panel of D.C. journalists, including NPR's Deirdre Walsh - are looking for. Sarah Schilling, the senior general manager of Anheuser-Busch's Williamsburg Brewery, tells judges what to consider.

SARAH SCHILLING: We're going to score all of the beers on these five attributes - appearance, aroma, taste, balance and drinkability.

SPRUNT: The judges hit every booth, sampling brews that range from an American pale ale to one aged with apple cider doughnuts. Congressman Steve Womack, a Republican from Arkansas, created an American lager called the Yeas and Nays, made with rice from his home state and hops from Michigan for his partner, Democrat Dan Kildee. Womack says the event is a reminder that people with different political views can work together to create something satisfying.

STEVE WOMACK: We're going to have spirited debates about issues. The people he represents have demands of him. The people that I represent have demands of me, and they're not all the same. But at the end of the day, I love him like a brother. And his hops, our rice couldn't have been any better.

SPRUNT: Kildee agrees.

DAN KILDEE: There's a lot of tension right here in Washington. I mean, it's so thick, you can cut it with a knife. But when we do stuff like this, it just reminds us that we have a lot in common.

SPRUNT: Democrat Tony Cardenas of California, who produced a Mexican-style lager, says there are similarities to crafting beer and legislation.

TONY CARDENAS: Once you realize what ingredients go into it, you say that's weird. But what starts at the beginning doesn't necessarily come out the same at the end, but you always hope for the best.

SPRUNT: His buddy, Republican Fred Upton of Michigan, is busy passing out glasses to the crowd.

FRED UPTON: Hey, we've run out of cups a couple of times.

SPRUNT: It's a good omen. The judges named them the best. But there's another prize.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for the People's Choice Award?

SPRUNT: With 41% of the vote...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The winner - The Yeas and Nays.

SPRUNT: Kildee is pleased, even hoppy (ph).

KILDEE: It was a sporting contest. We're happy to have the people's vote.

SPRUNT: His Republican partner, Womack, agrees and jokingly adds...

WOMACK: And it just reinforces what a lot of my side has said all along. The media who judged it, that's fake news.

KILDEE: (Laughter).

SPRUNT: Once Kildee stops laughing, the Democrat says the pair will take turns displaying the trophy in their Capitol Hill offices to keep with the spirit of the competition.

Barbara Sprunt, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST SONG, "CAN I KICK IT?") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.

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