Obama to get beer care package from Maine brewers

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PORTLAND (AP) — President Barack 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 commander in chief. Gov. John Baldacci, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and beer company representatives joined him for Monday’s official send-off in downtown Portland.

 Milliken, 44, was singled out this month by Obama at a health care rally as a small business owner who’d 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 Milliken, who owns a specialty beverage shop. “Of course, being a good American, I had to answer the call.”

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 Milliken and Andrew Braceras own Market House Coffee and the Maine Beer and Beverage Co., which together have three full-time employees and a half-dozen 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 Milliken’s case, health care reform means he’ll 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, Baldacci noted.

 As for Milliken, he’s enjoying his 15 minutes of fame.

 He created a Facebook page for Bill the Beer Guy and has a blog, as well. He said he’s happy to lend his voice to the debate.

 “We’re having fun with it,” he said.

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