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Beer, Art and Bipartisan Bonhomie

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Skall, left, CEO and co-founder of DC Brau, gives Cleaver a tour of the brewery located in Northeast D.C. Cleaver went to the brewery to check out a mural by artist Hannah Dean that was inspired by one of his “civility letters.”

Sitting in a red booth at the DC Brau Brewery, Cleaver says that people are probably surprised at the overwhelmingly supportive response he gets to the notes.

“It’s consistently positive,” he says.

For example, “a Republican colleague said, ‘Keep sending them.’ One of the Democrats from Pennsylvania said, ‘You can’t stop this. We won’t tolerate it.’”

Another House colleague, Texan Ted Poe, is a die-hard conservative. But he is a big fan of liberal Cleaver’s civility letters. In fact, Cleaver says, Poe makes every member of his staff sign a copy of the civility letters after they finish reading them.

“I’m a seminary-trained Methodist minister,” Cleaver explained, when asked how he finds something to write about every week. This enabled him to write two sermons every Sunday, hoping to make his congregation reflect without feeling judged.

Likewise with his civility letters, Cleaver aims to write them so neither party thinks that the message is leveled at it.

Meet, Greet, Quaff

Cleaver and Dean met for the first time at DC Brau on April 12. Skall showed the congressman, his staff and the artist through the brewery, which smelled of hot, sour yeast.

Against the wall next to several taps of beer, Dean’s mural, the watercolor musing writ large, was scrawled. Next to the painting, Skall had taped the congressman’s letter.

The three stood to look over the literary and visual representation, murmuring about art and the brewing process, as well as their mutual love of animals large and small. Dean handed Cleaver a copy of the original watercolor. He said he would frame it for his office. Skall described the boisterous, family- and pet-friendly atmosphere of the brewery on the weekends. Cleaver vowed to grab a bus and bring a group of Republicans and Democrats to visit.

During a hazy spring afternoon, a congressman, entrepreneur and an artist sat down to talk, because every once in a while, these disparate groups — the earnest transplants and the devoted townies — meet and find they have an awful lot in common.

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