President Obama's lighthearted request for free beer in exchange for a shout-out to a small-business owner is yielding suds for the White House refrigerator.
Bill Milliken, now known as "Bill the Beer Guy," arranged for Maine breweries to fill a giant basket with 14 varieties of beer for the president. Gov. John Baldacci, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree and beer company representatives joined him for Monday's official send-off in downtown Portland.
Mr. Milliken, 44, was singled out this month by Mr. Obama at a health care rally as a small-business owner who would benefit from the federal health care reform law. The president jokingly said, "In exchange for this publicity, I hope I'm going to get some samples of beer, OK?"
"How could I say no?" said Mr. Milliken, who owns a specialty beverage shop. "Of course, being a good American, I had to answer the call."
Mr. Milliken and Andrew Braceras own Market House Coffee and the Maine Beer and Beverage Co., which together have three full-time employees and six part-time workers. The health care overhaul will provide a tax credit for up to 35 percent of what's paid for health insurance for workers.
In Mr. Milliken's case, health care reform means he will be able to reach his goal of providing health insurance to all three of his full-time workers.
But on Monday, the focus was on beer as well as health care.
The Maine Brewers Guild said it was happy to send some craft-brewed beer to the White House. Maine's 20 breweries produce more than 100 brands of beer and a wide variety of styles. They also provide about 200 jobs, Mr. Baldacci noted.
As for Mr. Milliken, he is enjoying his brush with fame.
He created a Facebook page for Bill the Beer Guy and has a blog as well. He said he is happy to lend his voice to the debate.
"We're having fun with it," he said.
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