LEWISTON — Just a short time ago, the empty mill space that is the new home of Baxter Brewing Co. was covered in dust and cluttered with old kegs and brewing equipment.
Now, one of the state’s largest breweries is readying to show off the work that’s been put into redeveloping the 4,800-square-foot room into a gleaming pub, complete with a large outdoor patio.
On Tuesday, founder Luke Livingston and Marketing Coordinator Adam Platz were hours away from hosting 200 members of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce — the first time the new pub would be seen by people other than friends and family.
But Livingston and Platz are hoping the Baxter space in Bates Mill 1A will go far beyond the standard taproom setup.
“We’re excited for what it means for Lewiston-Auburn, and to continue to elevate the local scene,” Livingston said.
Not only has the space been completely redesigned and restored — offering an ode to Lewiston-Auburn’s manufacturing history — but it will also offer food, games like shuffleboard, Skee-Ball and cornhole, live events and outdoor seating alongside a waterfall in the canal.
Outside, the heated patio and walkways will be lit at night by torches and fire pits.
Platz said that as the brewery has begun hosting private events for family, he’s seen the excitement grow.
“It’s nice to see them be proud of a new space in this community,” Platz said.
Livingston said a larger taproom has been a goal for the brewery for at least six years, when it became legal in Maine to sell beer for on-premise consumption. Since that time, more than 100 breweries in Maine have begun operating beer tasting rooms.
The new pub honors the history of the former mill space. All the post and beam and brick bones of the building have been restored, the wraparound bar and standing tables were built with floorboards taken from the second floor, there’s mill-inspired artwork, and a large restored compressor.
It’s also still very much a mill building. In order to finish the new HVAC installation, the canal had to be drained.
“It’s a 175-year-old textile mill, you discover a lot of things along the way,” Livingston said. “It’s part of the charm of it.”
Platz said before the major construction began, “it was gross” in the space. Someone spent months simply gutting old ductwork, wiring and piping.
Architect Platz Associates designed the new space, which included some analysis of other brewpubs across the country. But Livingston said the biggest goal, to “stay on brand,” was easy, given the space they had.
“To stay on brand in this location isn’t hard,” Platz said. “This is our brand.”
Prior to its official opening date next week, the brewery will host another private event Wednesday to release a beer called Limb-It-Less, created alongside, and in ode to, Travis Mills, an Army veteran and quadruple amputee.
According to a 2017 report from the Maine Brewers’ Guild, craft beer is a growing industry in Maine with an economic impact of more than $225 million. In 2017, Baxter brewed more than 15,000 barrels.
Just prior to the chamber of commerce event Tuesday, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque walked out of the new gated entrance to the pub. He flashed a receipt and said, “I’m the first official customer of the new pub, I think.”
The tentative opening date of the new pub is Wednesday, Oct. 17.