Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brew England Visits: Baxter Brewing Co - Lewiston, ME

As you know, Sarah and I like to travel, especially around New England. As a benefit from these trips, not to mention our honeymoon last year, we accumulated a free night stay through, so we decided to spend our free night in Portland, ME.

Ever since I bought a few cans of Baxter Pamola XTra Pale at Craft Beer Cellar earlier in the year, I became a fan of the brewery. Each beer I tried only reinforced my feelings. Considering we were going to be in Portland for the night, we decided we had to pay a visit to the Baxter Brewing Co. facility in Lewiston, which is exactly what we did!

Lewiston is a small mill city located approximately 40 minutes north of Portland. Sarah and I have visited Portland many times; however, it was the first time in about 15 years that I had traveled north of Portland! With the address plugged into our GPS, we knew we wouldn’t have any problems finding the brewery.

Leading up to our trip, we had been communicating via Twitter with @baxterbrewing, which is run by Chris – a part time employee of the brewery, who handles their email list and of course their Twitter account. He was actually expecting our arrival and greeted us as soon as we walked into the facility.

The Baxter brewery is a reclaimed part of Bates Mill, which is one of the most historic buildings in Lewiston. They spent months working on the brewery, and tried to reuse as much material they could. It must be said, they did a great job with their retail and tasting area, as well as their brewery!

In true fashion, it was set to be a small and intimate tour. Just before we got started, two more people came in to make it a group of four – you really can’t beat that!

For those unfamiliar with Baxter Brewing Co, they are New England's first and only all-cannery brewery, meaning you can only purchase their beers in a can on the retail market. They also have their beer available on draft, but you will not find any bottled Baxter beers. This is actually great in several ways – the cans are lighter, which cuts down on shipping costs; they are able to be easily recycled; and, they block out 100% of light, which is the main reason beer can become skunked (exposure to oxygen being another main factor).

Keeping up with the environmentally sound practices exhibited by Baxter Brewing Co, their six pack rings are remarkably green! According to Chris, “we use a #4 plastic, LDPE photodegradeable polythelen plastic. This means they are non-toxic and begin degrading when exposed to UV light. They become brittle very quickly, lose most of their structural integrity, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, and depending on the season, may break down completely in as few as three weeks.” This is obviously great for the environment.

Chris chatting about how they make Baxter beers!

Chris led us into the brewery, where we instantly found the canning line. We quickly moved passed the line, as we were hitting the brewery floor first, to learn how they make their wort, which eventually turns into the beer they can, keg, and package.

Once we entered the brewery floor, it was obvious that the tanks the brewers use to produce their beer were quite large. So large in fact, that they had to cut a segment out of the back wall in order to move in the kettle, whirlpool, hot liquor tank, and several fermentation vessels.

The brewery currently has the capability of producing up to 8,600 barrels annually, but in 2011 they were able to produce 5,000 barrels. They went from only distributing in the central to southern Maine area, to eventually getting into the Boston market. There's no estimate on their production for 2012, but all three of their beers - Pamola XTra Pale, Stowaway IPA, and Amber Road are now distributed throughout the greater Boston area, and the brewery is currently planning on releasing some seasonal beers, beginning soon with their Summer brew!

Another prime reason for us to visit the brewery was that they had just released Amber Road, which at the time was only being served and distributed in Maine. It is unbelievable, and truly deserves its own review, which will be done here soon! Needless to say, it was deliciously malty, a bit hoppy, and clocked in at a moderate 5.5% ABV. There was no surprise that we purchased a case of Amber Road, as well as a bunch of other schwag, while we were there!

Despite being a bit north of Portland, a trip to Lewiston to visit Baxter Brewing Co. should not be passed up. There are a few bars in the town as well, notably a Gritty McDuff's brewpub, but is definitely (read: obviously) close enough to head back to Portland for a fun night out on the town.

Baxter Brewing Co. is located at 130 Mill St in Lewiston, ME. Visit their website for upcoming events, brewery news, and tour information - and for Pete's sake - GET SOME OF THEIR BEER! We promise you will love them!

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