LEWISTON — A new craft brewery is coming to the Bates Mill, and it will definitely stand out from other Maine beers when it hits store shelves this fall.
The Baxter Brewing Co., run by Auburn native Luke Livingston, 25, will sell beer in cans, not bottles as craft beer drinkers are accustomed to.
Livingston admitted Monday that cans could be a hard sell to some craft beer drinkers.
“It’s certainly an uphill battle,” he said. He cited that there are more than 50 breweries in the U.S. that can their beer. Some, like Colorado-based Oskar Blues, have been enormously successful.
Livingston has an argument for skeptics of canned beer. “Some people may claim to like bottles better. Everyone says they like draft beer better than anything else. Well, that beer comes out of a keg. A keg is a big can.”
Canned beer is a growing trend in craft beer. Environmentalists like it because it’s lighter than glass and uses less fuel to ship.
Beer drinkers like it because light can skunk beer, even through the brown glass popular with microbreweries. Cans block out light completely.
Livingston said cans are better to take outdoors in places where glass bottles are banned, giving him a leg up over Shipyard and Geary’s.
The decision to brew in the Bates Mill was an environmental decision, as well. Livingston said he wanted to join the trend of re-using old mills, which has less environmental impact than building a brewery from scratch.
The brewery will be in Bates Mill No. 1A, behind the old DaVinci’s location and down Mill Street from the new DaVinci’s. The front door will be across Mill Street from the back of Fishbones.
Standing out as the first package brewery in the Twin Cities is a perk as well. Although Gritty’s brews beer in its Auburn brewpub, their bottled beer is contract brewed in Portland by Shipyard Brewing Co.
Livingston, who lives in Portland, said opening a brewery in the Twin Cities is a way of giving back to the community where he was raised. He has run the popular blogaboutbeer.com since 2007 and was a founder of the Maine Beer Writers’ Guild. Livingston is also a freelancer and a homebrewer.
Baxter Brewing Co. will join more than 30 breweries and brewing companies in Maine, a mix of brewpubs, like Gritty’s, and breweries that only sell packaged beer in stores and bars like Allagash. Baxter will be the latter type.
Livingston will handle the marketing side of the business while Michael LaCharite of Brunswick, founder of Casco Bay Brewing, will brew the beer.
LaCharite sold his former brewery about a decade ago and Baxter Brewing Co. marks his return to the brewing industry.
The brewery’s flagship beer will be Stowaway IPA, a West Coast-style India Pale Ale. That means it will have lots of hops, lending it some bitterness along with citrus and floral flavors.
Once Stowaway takes off, Livingston plans to have four year-round beers and four-seasonal beers, which would be available each year for a limited time. He has plans for an American pale, a raspberry porter using local raspberries and a holiday beer flavored with Maine spruce tips.
“We want to incorporate as many Maine products into our beers at possible,” he said. That could mean Maine maple syrup as well as locally grown hops or oats in future brews.
The American-style beers will be a departure from most Maine breweries, which generally brew English-style beer. American beers are bolder, with more hops, bigger flavors and often more alcohol than their English counterparts.
The brewing system is expected to arrive soon, and construction should begin in the next two weeks. Livingston said he hopes for his beer to be available by Labor Day. Once the brewery opens, tastings, tours and a gift shop are planned.
Livingston said he’s been planning the brewery for about 11 months, but he still has plenty of work ahead. The 30-barrel brewing system is still in Eugene, Oregon, where he’ll be traveling this week to purchase it from Ninkasi Brewing, which is upgrading to a larger system.
Thirty barrels is a sizable operation in Maine. Bray’s Brewpub in Naples has a 3½-barrel system at a time, while it still allows them to brew a little more than 100 gallons at a time. Livingston’s 30-barrel system will allow him to brew 930 gallons at a time.
An outdoorsman, Livingston said the name Baxter is meant to conjure images of Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin.
The logo is a stylized image of Pamola, an Abenaki and Penobscot spirit said to live on Mt. Katahdin. He has a moose’s head, a man’s body and wings. Pamola is said to be the god of thunder and the cause of cold weather.
For people outside Maine, Baxter is a simple, memorable name. “It’s easy to order in a loud bar,” Livingston said, laughing.