Forget Paris — the best ambassadorship is all about beer

August 9, 2013
Courtesy Don Russell. Costumed women join Don Russell (left) with U.S. diplomat Robert Silberstein in Lithuania
Costumed women join Don Russell (left) with U.S. diplomat Robert Silberstein in Lithuania. (Courtesy Don Russell)

Obama’s big-money bundlers may be falling all over themselves to score ambassadorships in the nicer embassies in Europe, but there’s an under-the-radar diplomatic post that comes with some pretty great perks, if you’re into those sorts of things: beer ambassador to Lithuania.

That’s the unofficial gig given to Don Russell, the longtime beer columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, when he took a trip to the former Eastern Bloc country on a cultural exchange trip sponsored by the U.S. embassy in Vilnius. Russell, whose nom de suds is “Joe Sixpack” now prefers to go by “Ambassador Sixpack.”

Russell tells the Loop that he scored the job through Lithuania’s honorary consul in Philadelphia, Krista Bard, who asked him to lead a tasting of Lithuanian beers in the City of Brotherly Love. Problem was, he didn’t know a thing about them. So, she helped arrange a week-long learning trip.

Russell figures taxpayers got pretty good bang for their buck — in addition to, well, drinking the bubbly stuff, he gave TV interviews, made appearances at beer events (including a festival in Pakruojis at which he and the U.S. deputy chief of mission helped tap the inaugural keg), and met with brewers — all in the name of fostering better international understanding. Beer has a way of bringing folks together — there’s a reason for beer summits, after all).

In a column he wrote about the trip, Russell describes it as winning “hearts and livers.”

Russell tells us that everywhere he went, Lithuanians professed their love for America. And they even liked our beer. He brought examples of U.S. craft brews (from Philly breweries, of course), and the Lithuanians — generally used to milder brews — went crazy for the super-hoppy American pours.

Perhaps when it comes to international relations, a pint or two might be good for whatever ales us.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Al Kamen | August 8, 2013