LEWISTON, Maine — Baxter Brewing plans to roll out several big changes this fall and next year, including rebranding its beers and adding flavors and larger sizes.
The changes, some the biggest to date for the Lewiston-based brewer, coincide with the departure in September of founder Luke Livingston, 34, who on Monday said he would be leaving the company. However, the changes have been planned for many months, he said.
“It’s easier for me to leave with the brewery also transitioning,” he said.
Operations manager Jenn Lever, who will replace Livingston as president of Baxter, said the brewery will rebrand over the next year. Lever said there are a lot of competitors and good beer in the market.
“We’re fighting to stay relevant,” she said.
Baxter is part of the $260.4 million that craft breweries and associated businesses contributed to the Maine economy in 2017, according to a report by the Maine Brewers’ Guild and the University of Maine School of Economics.
More than 135 craft breweries were operating in the state at the end of 2018.
Lever, 33, brings to Baxter a manufacturing and operations background. She worked at Pepsi for six years and then at a vegetable processing plant in Biddeford. Before joining Baxter in 2017, she consulted with the brewer for two years to help it manage cash flow and add efficiency to its ordering and purchasing operations.
“My passion comes from making things more efficient and giving life to other people’s ideas,” she said.
Making the brand cohesive
Livingston characterized the changes as Baxter’s “largest overhaul with branding.”
“Every one of our individual beers had an individual look and story,” he said. “We’re taking steps to bring more visual cohesion.”
Customers may notice the absence of the familiar Pamola bird spirit on its beer cans. Instead, the cans will bear the Baxter name, an effort to simplify.
“You’ll see more of the brand font and less of the Pamola, which is complicated to reproduce,” Baxter founder and president Luke Livingston said. “But you’ll still see the Pamola on glassware and signage.”
The Pamola is the Abenaki god of thunder, which combines the head of a moose with the body of a man and the wings and feet of an eagle.
The brewery also will add a second IPA to replace a porter in its variety pack. The pack is Baxter’s second-biggest seller behind Stowaway India Pale Ale.
“We’re working on that now and expect to release it in the spring of 2020,” Lever said.
Also coming are two new brands that haven’t been named yet, a 5.8 percent alcohol IPA and a 4.3 percent light lager.
Livingston said naming new brands has become increasingly hard to do.
“There are more than 7,000 breweries in the country releasing beers every day,” he said.
Baxter has chosen some names in the past that haven’t worked as well as expected. Customers, especially outside of Maine, couldn’t pronounce Pamola, one of the brewery’s first ales.
And Livingston said he was surprised at how many customers didn’t know what “tryst” means. The brewer sells Hop Tryst, so named to express the love affair among the eight different types of hops in that beer.
Testing new beers
The brewery’s seven-barrel system makes it easier to try new tastes before going to market, Lever said.
Baxter taste tests new beers in its pub, which started serving lunch two weeks ago. The pub was expanded from 400 square feet to 5,000 square feet last November. It already serves dinner.
Baxter also is expanding its philanthropic work with programs like its MHT lager, which is a fundraiser for Maine Huts & Trails, and events like the annual reggae festival at Sugarloaf Mountain, which changed from offering Bud Light to selling Baxter beer.
“If you aren’t trying multiple ways of marketing, you are a failure,” Lever said. “Keep your eyes and ears peeled. We’ve got a lot of new things.”