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 the Maine Beer and Beverage Corporation, 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 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. Representative Chellie Pingree, Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavadones, and a dozen or so media members, other local business owners, and a couple dozen onlookers.

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 better conditions for their employees. He also said he felt like organizing the beer basket for Obama was simply his civic duty.

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

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

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