LEWISTON — Baxter Brewing Co., the third-largest brewer in Maine, is expanding its taproom to 10 times its size and building on the history of the Bates Mill.

Founder Luke Livingston said Monday that the new, 4,800-square-foot taproom will open this summer near its taproom in Bates Mill 1A.

“The room has several really sizable pieces of old equipment from when the building was powered by the canal,” Livingston said. “There are compressors and turbines and access to the canal inside the room, and actually part of the room is built around ledge that they had no way to get rid of 175 years ago. We’re keeping all of those components in place and we’ll actually build seating around pieces of old equipment; it’ll definitely be an interactive taproom, which will be exciting.”

Lewiston-based Baxter, one of the earliest entries into the craft beer market to sell in cans, sold its first beer seven years ago this week and last year brewed more than 15,000 barrels. It’s sold all over New England and in New Jersey.

The taproom’s size has been an issue from the start, Livingston said, calling it one of the smallest in any of the state’s 100-plus breweries.

“When we designed the brewery, it was illegal in the state of Maine to sell beer for on-premise consumption,” he said. “Then less than a year after we opened, that law changed. So we did the best we could over the course of the last seven years to retrofit our existing space, but it has never been what it could be.”

The new taproom is expected to expand hours and seating, including, when weather permits, outside along the canal. It’s open Thursday to Saturday, 3 to 9 p.m.

The taproom will carry “several more taps of unique and hard-to-find Baxter beers, including an expanded barrel-aging program” with “many more surprises to come,” a statement announcing the expansion said.

There was no word yet on whether the new taproom will serve food or carry other brands of beer.

Renovations started this month. The overall investment will be announced at the grand opening, Livingston said.

Baxter Brewing employs 33 people. The expansion will add new positions, though Livingston isn’t sure how many.

Craft beer is a growing industry in Maine with an economic impact of more than $225 million, according to a 2017 report from the Maine Brewers’ Guild.

The state is home to the annual New England Craft Brew Summit. Lewiston is host to Baxter’s Great Falls Brewfest.

Livingston hopes the new taproom extends beer tourism farther up I-95. Portland has more than 30 taprooms and the Twin Cities just three.

“Promotion of the Lewiston-Auburn community has always been at the heart of our core values at Baxter,” Livingston said in the news release. “We know that anyone we can get to travel just a little farther north will love not only what they’re going to find here at the Bates Mill, but throughout our community.”

Kathryn Skelton can be contacted at:

[email protected]

filed under: