Baxter Brewing expanding production in Lewiston

Tony Gendron guides a load of rebar off a flatbed for excavator operator Todd Gendron Tuesday afternoon at Baxter Brewery Co. in Lewiston, which is in the midst of a major expansion.
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal
Tony Gendron guides a load of rebar off a flatbed for excavator operator Todd Gendron Tuesday afternoon at Baxter Brewery Co. in Lewiston, which is in the midst of a major expansion.
Posted Jan. 31, 2013, at 9:18 a.m.

LEWISTON, Maine — As cans clattered down the production line in the hops-heavy air of Baxter Brewing Co., founder Luke Livingston fretted over plans to quadruple the flow of beer from his corner of the Bates Mill.

Outside, contractors had spent several days thawing the expansion site with heaters before breaking ground. When they finally dug a hole, they discovered a crumbling foundation where the new one ought to be. Then, it snowed.

Inside, work on new office space knocked loose so much decades-old dust on the floor below that Livingston’s wife, Chelsea — the company’s business manager — erected a tent above her desk.

Livingston was both excited and scared, he said.

“It’s the good kind of terrifying,” he said as he watched a crew. Though there have been snags, the contractors are still aiming for an April completion date.

For an increasing customer base, it will be a welcome change.

The two-year-old company is currently able to meet only about 30 percent of orders for its Stowaway IPA, Amber Road, Pamola Xtra Pale Ale and seasonal creations.

The work that’s being done will create space in the brewery for six more fermenters. If the schedule holds, two will be delivered in April. Two more will come this fall and two more will arrive in the spring of 2014. The cost of the project will be about $2 million.

Each pair of fermenters will add about 180 barrels of beer per week to the facility’s production capacity, said Ben Low, director of brewing. Production will increase to a 24-hour schedule.

Livingston said the initial increase in production should make the beer more widely available throughout Maine and Massachusetts. He hopes to get his beers into stores and bars in New Hampshire and Vermont, once the work is complete.

He has already begun hiring.

He has posted positions for a third brewer, a warehouse manager and a packing manager. Eventually, the workforce is expected to go from 10 employees to about 20, some of whom will work part time.

It’s heady stuff for a company president who is still three years shy of his 30th birthday.

Livingston stood in the barren space where his office will soon be and recited some of the core values the company adopted last month. Among them are staying loyal to the Lewiston-Auburn community, working as a team and humbly making fine beers.

“We spent the last few months defining who we are,” Livingston said.

The Auburn native said he’s trying to find the right balance between keeping up with the business’s daily needs and watching the company grow. Though it feels like things are moving fast, Livingston said he’s careful not to let the growth happen too fast.

“Our top priority will be to fill the orders we have,” he said. “The rest will come later.”

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