July 17, 2010

Maine beer never made it through White House gate

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

President Obama may finally get to taste a Maine microbrew.

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Bill Milliken, co-owner of Maine Beer and Beverage Corp., hopes President Obama gets a chance to sit back in Bar Harbor and, finally, sample some Maine brew.

April 2010 Press Herald File

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Obama is vacationing with his family in Bar Harbor, a perfect spot to sample Bar Harbor Real Ale, Cadillac Mountain Stout and lots of other Maine-made beers.

The president's thirst for local brew made news during his last visit, when he spoke at the Portland Expo on April 1 and made a very public request of Bill Milliken, co-owner of Maine Beer and Beverage Corp. in Monument Square. Obama used Milliken to explain the benefits of health care reform for small business owners.

"In exchange for this publicity, I hope that I'm going to get some samples of the beer," Obama said as Milliken stood in the audience.

"OK, he nodded in the affirmative," the president said.

Milliken and members of the Maine Brewers Guild later put together a basket of Maine beer and other goodies and handed it off to the staff of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. The beer eventually made it to Washington, D.C., but it never did get inside the White House gate.

"They will not accept any gifts of food at the White House," said Willy Ritch, Pingree's spokesman. "I think the story was, everything would have to get crushed in the process, which doesn't do much for beer."

Ritch said some of the other gifts, such as T-shirts, did get to the White House office that handles gifts.

Milliken said Friday that it was too bad the Secret Service couldn't make an exception for the beer.

"He asked for it," said Milliken, who was a lawyer in a previous career. "I said, 'It's not really a gift. It's kind of a contract.'"

While Milliken said the idea that "the Maine Brewers Guild is an al-Qaida sleeper cell" is ridiculous, but he kind of understands.

He just hopes the president, a former lawyer himself, isn't angry at him for not holding up his end of the bargain.

It's more likely, he said, that the whole beer deal slipped Obama's mind. "You did have the oil spill and that general getting fired and some other stuff," Milliken said.

Either way, Milliken said, he hopes that Obama is getting a chance to sit back in Bar Harbor and, finally, sample some Maine brew.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

jrichardson@pressherald.com

 

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