It began, as many crazy but brilliant ideas do, in the wee hours of the morning after a certain amount of drinking.
The idea: to get Maine brewers to make beers in honor of actor Bill Murray and then invite him to Portland to drink them during Portland Beer Week in November.
“It all started about a year ago,” said Shahin Khojastehzad, co-owner and manager of Novare Res Bier Cafe in Portland. “After work one night we went to one of the Novare employees’ houses, and we started talking about Bill Murray. We said, ‘What would a Bill Murray beer, be?’ … and people threw out names like ‘Pils Murray’ and ‘Rushmore Red’ (named after Murray’s 1998 film “Rushmore”).
The discussion remained a late-night memory until this Labor Day weekend, when Khojastehzad, thinking ahead to Portland Beer Week, remembered the conversation. In short order, he reached out to fellow brewers and designed a poster inviting the 63-year-old actor to Portland on Nov. 5. Thursday afternoon, Novare announced the campaign on Twitter — with the hashtag #BillMurrayBeerWeekME — and by midafternoon Friday 14 Maine breweries had already committed to making Bill Murray beers.
If it all comes together, and if Murray actually shows up, he’ll find beers brewed in his honor on tap at Novare Res and several other Portland beer bars as well.
It’s not out of the question. Murray has a history of turning up at random events, particularly those held in his honor. This summer he attended an ice cream social named for him in Los Angeles and photobombed an engagement photo shoot. He has also jumped into a New York City kickball game and crashed a bachelor party, where he gave a toast and advice to the groomsmen.
“We actually thought we had a legitimate chance of getting him to show up if we did this,” Khojastehzad said.
Several Maine brewers have already announced the beers they intend to brew. They include: Groundhog Day IPA from Maine Beer Co.; Lost in Fermentation (a nod to “Lost in Translation”) from Banded Horn; Bejeezus Belt IPA (“Caddyshack”) from Rising Tide; Vigo’s Pink Ooze (“Ghostbusters”) from In’finiti; Rauchmore (“Rushmore”) from Marshall Wharf; and Let Me Tell You About My Stout (“The Life Aquatic”) from Austin Street Brewing. Bissell Brothers, Baxter, Allagash, Bunker, Foundation and Tributary brewing companies were also among the early responders.
Oxbow Brewing Co. in Newcastle plans to create two Murray beers, said head brewer Mike Fava. Both are versions of beers Oxbow is currently making. Jaguar Shark, named for the creature that Murray’s character chases throughout “The Life Aquatic,” is a wet-hopped beer, using just-harvested hops. Scrooged will be a version of Noel, Oxbow’s annual holiday beer.
“I can come up with millions of ideas and special beers and names, but the idea is for everyone in the beer community to contribute,” Fava said. “I think beer is about fun, and Bill Murray’s characters that he’s portrayed throughout his career represent that spirit.”
The Murray invite is also an effort to make Portland Beer Week more interesting, Khojastehzad said, but it’s not a marketing ploy.
“I don’t want this to be weird for him,” he said. “I don’t want to put him on a pedestal. Just be a human being and drink beer and have a good time.”
If Murray does show up, Dave Evans, co-owner of The Great Lost Bear, is working on procuring a golf cart so organizers can chauffeur the actor around to other Portland bars serving the tribute beers.
“I don’t expect to get an official response from him,” Khojastehzad said. “I just hope he shows up on the day when we’re pouring the beers.”
Murray could not be reached for comment Friday, and his agent, Lina Fiks, was out of town, according to her assistant.
And if all the social media attention fails to draw Murray to Maine?
“If he shows up or not, that’s not really important,” Fava said. “It’s more about bringing everyone together for one cause and one special evening.”
Just 24 hours after the campaign launched, Khojastehzad said he’d been contacted by artists who want to contribute in some way and from the Marriott Courtyard hotel, which has offered a free room for Murray.
“I’ve been taken aback,” Khojastehzad said. “I know everyone knows Bill Murray and everybody loves beer, but I didn’t know the storm it would create by posting it on social media.”