PORTLAND – Maine politicians and small-business owners gathered in Portland on Patriots Day to send a message to President Obama: “Hope you like the beer.”

The message was accompanied by a giant basket filled with more than a dozen bottles of beer, made by Maine brewers, to be sent to Obama for his personal enjoyment.

The presidential beer delivery was the idea of Bill Milliken, an owner of Maine Beer and Beverage Corp., who Obama referred to by name during his televised speech on health care at the Portland Expo on April 1. Obama cited Milliken as a Maine small-business owner who will be able to provide more of his workers with health insurance because of tax credits in the new health reform law.

Obama also, in a not too subtle way, asked for some beer.

“In exchange for this publicity, I hope that I’m going to get some samples of beer,” Obama said to the crowd.

On Monday, a send-off for the beer was held at the Public Market House in Monument Square, where Maine Beer and Beverage is located. The crowd included a dozen or so representatives from Maine beer companies, Gov. John Baldacci, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavadones, other local business owners, and a couple of dozen onlookers. Milliken’s store sells beer, including lots of locally made brews.

The beer basket was to be driven to Washington, but as of Monday it hadn’t been determined who would do that.

Pingree said she was co-sponsoring legislation that would cut the excise tax on small brewers — like those in Maine — by as much as half.

Milliken told the crowd he was happy to help get recognition for Maine small-business owners as they work to help the state’s economy and improve conditions for their employees. He also said he felt that organizing the beer basket for Obama was simply his civic duty.

“When the president calls, I answer. How could I say no?” Milliken asked.

Milliken said he thought it was fitting that the beer send-off was being held on Patriots Day, because well-known patriot Benjamin Franklin was supposedly famous for saying that beer is “proof that God loves us.”

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]