June 13, 2013

What Ales You

Unexpectedly heady times for Lewiston's Baxter Brewing.

By Tom Atwell

Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston is celebrating a lot of success – and it has expanded to meet demand. “We are in the middle – well, actually on the tail end – of a 400-percent brewery expansion,” owner Luke Livingston said last week.

click image to enlarge

Stowaway IPA is Baxter Brewing's most popular beer, accounting for about 60 percent of sales.

Courtesy photo

Livingston recently posted on Face-book that, just three years after breaking ground at the historic Bates Mill Complex, the brewery conducted its first 24-hour brew day and began using its new 240-barrel fermenters.

More than most brewery founders, Livingston went into the business with a complete business plan. But he is still surprised by his growth.

“I think my business plan was strong and detailed for my first year, maybe two years of business,” Livingston said. “I had thought a little bit about my five- and maybe 10-year plan with the eventual goal of exceeding 30,000 barrels of beer a year, but I certainly did not expect that to happen in year three.”

He hopes the larger capacity will eventually allow Baxter to introduce some new beers, but for now, the goal is to meet current demand.

“We are now filling only 30 percent of our orders,” Livingston said, “so our priority will be getting the existing beers out there. Hopefully after that, and not long after, we can start playing around again.”

Baxter now sells its beer only in Maine and Massachusetts, with 80 percent of the sales coming from Maine. He hopes the brewery expansion will let him expand sales to New Hampshire and Vermont in the near future.

Stowaway IPA is Baxter’s biggest seller, making up about 60 percent of sales, with the seasonals – Summer Swelter, Hayride Autumn and Phantom Punch Stout for winter – making up around 20 percent. Pamola Xtra Pale Ale is next in line, and Amber Ale brings up the rear.

I told Livingston I was surprised by those numbers, because while I like Stowaway, I like Pamola a lot more.

“So do I,” he said. “I’m not a hop head, although I play one...” (He did say the Pamola sales have been growing fast in recent months.)

Last year Baxter’s summer ale was named Celsius, but it changed to Summer Swelter this year, and I asked Livingston why.

“The folks at Celsius Energy Drinks (based in Florida) were less than enthusiastic about our use of the word ‘Celsius,’ ” he said.

He said he had not heard of the energy drink when he named his beer, and federal officials approved the name, so they probably had not heard of it, either.

The expansion brings Baxter to 15 employees , and he expects the company could grow to 30 in the near future.

Nancy and I bought a six-pack of Summer Swelter and found it to be a good, solid summer ale with lightly golden color that included a little bit of haze, and a crisp taste with a good hops bite. It’s a good session beer at 4.7 percent alcohol.

CAPTAIN DICK’S Brewing Co. is, as far as I know, Maine’s newest brewery.

Dave Mahoney, general manager of the brewery and the Fire N Brew Restaurant at 73 Mile Road in Wells, said he opened May 15 and is doing a good business.

“We are doing all craft beers,” he said. “We now have a summer ale, a black, a black rye IPA and a pale ale.”

He said his brewer, Greg Spickler, has a pecan porter that is aging in bourbon barrels that should be ready in six months, and is focusing on American-style ales.

The restaurant is operating a 30-barrel system, and is a rebranding of the Wells Beach Steakhouse. I will report on the beer as soon as I can get to Wells during the restaurant’s business hours.

MAINE BEER CO. in Freeport has two new beers that were scheduled to go on sale Tuesday.

I want to try Weez and Another One side by side, because they are an interesting experiment. They both have the same kettle and dry hopping schedule with Warrior, Cascade, Citra and Simcoe hops, but different malts.

Weez, the dark beer, uses Maris Otter, American 2-Row, Munich, C-80, Chocolate, Flaked Wheat, Black Barley and Midnight Wheat as its grain schedule, and comes in at 7 percent alcohol.

Another One uses American 2-Row, Red Wheat and Carapils as its grains, and also comes in at 7 percent. Both are described as intensely hoppy American IPAs, but Weez has more of a roasty malt flavor to it. Just another thing for my to-do list.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: tomatwell@me.com

 

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