Since Luke Livingston founded Baxter Brewing Co. four years ago, it’s been the little canned beer that could.

From its home in Lewiston’s Bates Mill complex, the company sold 460,350 gallons of beer in 2014, according to Livingston.

His projection for 2015, almost double: 713,000 gallons.

1. Milestone that told you Baxter was going to go big?

It’s hard to pick just one moment or milestone because there have been so, so many. But one milestone that sticks out was the feeling I distinctly remember — which happened sometime during year one — when suddenly all of the banks I had once been begging to take a meeting with me during my fundraising period started calling me to schedule lunches and woo me. It was definitely a satisfying feeling!

2. What was your biggest “Yes!” for in the last year?

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I’m going to cheat a little and list two. The first annual Great Falls Brewfest this past June was definitely a huge win, a huge “yes” moment. Not only for Baxter and me personally, but I think for the Lewiston-Auburn community as a whole. I think we get more comments and compliments about the fest than anything else at the moment, especially locally. To see the impact on this community it had in year one was super exciting. And yes, rest assured we’re doing it again this year (on Saturday 6/20), only bigger!

The second big “yes” moment is, because it’s top of mind, we’re in the early stages of forming a killer partnership with our friends at Luke’s Lobster in NYC. What those guys do to bring a piece of Maine to the city is huge, and we’re really excited to be a part of it now.

3. What had you considering choice words in the last year?

This is kind of hard to explain in writing, unless you live it every day like we do, but I/we/Baxter are performing this constant balancing act. The amount of beer we sell; the brand recognition we have in Northern New England; etc. is more in line with a brewery that has been around for 10 or 20 years. And the expectations of those around us — wholesalers, accounts and customers, even our own employees — are commensurate with that. But of course, despite those expectations, our bank account better reflects the company that’s only existed for four years. So, as you can imagine, striking that balance is never easy and easily frustrating.

4. Policy or issue you’re following this winter? Impact it could have on your business?

Nationally, I’m keeping close tabs on the Excise Tax Reduction Act that the Brewers Association and Senator Collins are working on together. This would obviously have a huge impact on our business, because it would cut our federal excise tax rate in half and save us about $160,000 in 2015 alone.

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Being able to reinvest that in new equipment and additional personnel instead would be awesome.

Locally, the very sudden and huge rise in the number of breweries in Maine (there are around 60 brewery licenses in the state currently, with more opening almost hourly) is definitely putting a strain on state liquor enforcement. The Maine Brewers Guild — I sit on the guild’s Legislative Committee — is working closely with BABLO (the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations) as we speak to further flesh out taproom laws, the legal donation of beer to local non-profits and other gray areas of existing liquor laws.

5. If you received a $1 million grant tomorrow, no strings attached, what would you invest it in?

(1) A much larger on-site taproom and event space, with expanded tap selection and the room/cooler space and ability to fill growlers.

(2) A snow blower; and

(3) A long winter’s nap.

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6. Three bits of practical advice to the next aspiring entrepreneur:

(1) Your network is your single biggest asset. It really is ALL about whom you know!

(2) If you’re not terrified, you’re doing it wrong.

(3) That being said — you HAVE to take the leap. Come on in, the water’s fine!

Six Questions For The CEO is a new monthly feature on the faces and names that keep business interesting. Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at [email protected]


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