Baxter Brewing Co. has harbored big ambitions since it opened in 2011, when it burst onto the scene as the sixth-largest brewery in the state.

In 2016, those ambitions took a step back as the company reported its first annual drop in production, going down 11.5 percent overall but still maintaining its spot as the third-largest brewery in the state.

Lesson learned, says Baxter marketing manager Adrienne Nichols. While Baxter’s in-state sales rose in 2016, Nichols said Baxter struggled out of state.

“The farther you get from your home base, the harder it is to sell. That is a struggle for us,” Nichols said.

The problem was acute in Massachusetts, where Baxter rolled out distribution but didn’t have a sales rep to help push the beer to draft lines and retail shops. The company has added staff in Massachusetts and other states as a new reality sets in on the beer industry: Consumers want local beer. Very local.

“People are looking more and more local,” Nichols said. “One of our most difficult states to sell in is Vermont because there’s a ton of great breweries and when you’re visiting or you’re from there, you want to try something local that you can be proud of. That said, it’s a very friendly industry. We don’t like to say we have competitors. We all have a go-to beer, and that’s what we want to be for people, but someone’s always looking to try something new. …

“It’s not something fancy. It’s not something you need to wait in line for. We’re just making the best beer that we can and we think that speaks to our numbers and our consumers. They know they’ll get a good beer every time they reach for it.”

Baxter ordered up a study of its consumers, Nichols said. Baxter learned where its fans are drinking the beer, which ones they favored and what they liked to do while drinking it. Then the company tailored campaigns to make sure it was reaching those consumers.

And the company added a new director of brewing operations, Andrew Sheffield, who worked for two of the largest craft breweries in the country – Oskar Blues and New Belgium, both based in Colorado.

Baxter also doubled its sales team, Nichols said, because simply making beer and putting it into a can isn’t good enough anymore.

“We’ve learned not to go into a new market without a Baxter rep on the ground,” Nichols said. “We’ve learned that doesn’t work well, especially in a congested market.”

Especially not outside of Maine.