In its inaugural year, Baxter Brewing Company set an all-time record for first-year production by a start-up craft brewery. Now, in its second year, the innovative craft-beer-in-a-can upstart in Lewiston broke ground Tuesday on an expansion that will increase capacity from 8,000 barrels to more than 33,000 barrels by the time it’s complete.
“All year, orders have called for three times as much beer as we’ve been able to make,” said Luke Livingston, Baxter founder and president. “Demand has so exceeded anything we could have predicted. We didn’t expect to hit this kind of milestone for several years.”
This expansion is in addition to a doubling of original capacity that was completed a year ago, which enabled the brewery to add its third year-round variety, introduce a series of seasonal beers and grow distribution into Massachusetts.
“Our mission—unique, world-class beers packaged in portable and environmentally friendly cans and kegs—has really resonated,” Livingston said. “It’s been really painful to have had to disappoint so many of our fans, customers and distributors simply because we couldn’t brew quickly enough. This will fix all that; we should be able to meet all the demand there is right now in Maine and Massachusetts and also respond to all the requests we’ve had from at least New Hampshire and Vermont. There shouldn’t be any more empty shelves!”
Construction began on a steel-and-concrete bunker that will become the base of six 240-barrel (nearly 7,500 gallons each) fermenters. The original canning line, capable of filling 30 cans a minute, will double in capacity as well as being retrofitted with an automated six-packing system.
Baxter is also searching for 6,00 to 8,000 square feet of off-site warehouse space, including 2,000 square feet of refrigerated space. Perhaps most importantly, however, the expansion will create an additional 15 to 20 jobs at Baxter in the next 18 months, as well as dozens of construction and contractor jobs during build out.
“This also represents a major re-commitment to Maine and especially to Lewiston-Auburn,” Livingston said. “This community represents the soul of our brand. We could have chosen to expand elsewhere, but that would not have been faithful to the integrity of the Baxter brand. We belong here, right where we started.” The initial phase of the expansion is expected to be operational by the spring of 2013. It also represents additional investment in the range of $2.0 million. Baxter Brewing is expected to generate nearly $2 million in revenue in 2012.
In its first year, Baxter has been honored by the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council (LAEGC), the Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce, Forbes Magazine, Esquire Magazine, BevNet Magazine (“Best New Brewery of the Year, 2011”), and in the Congressional Record. The brewery currently distributes three year-round varieties, Pamola Xtra Pale Ale, Stowaway IPA and Amber Road amber ale, and just released the second in its series of seasonal offerings, Hayride Autumn Ale, which a Boston Globe reviewer lauded as his “new favorite autumn beer.”
Hayride follows the extraordinary success of Celsius Summer Ale, the entire stock of which sold out in a matter of weeks. Baxter Brewing varieties are distributed in Maine by Nappi Distributors and Pine State Distributors; and in Massachusetts by the affiliates of the Massachusetts Beverage Alliance.