The Pub at Baxter opened last year. Photo by Carla Jean Lauter

With a change-up in leadership, an anticipated rebrand and a reevaluation of its portfolio, Baxter Brewing Company is shaking everything up – for the better.

The Lewiston-based brewery opened in 2010, and quickly became a pioneer and evangelist of canned beer. The first modern brewery in Maine to offer all packaged beer in cans, it quickly found an audience of beer drinkers that wanted to bring beer with them on adventures across the state. After renovating a large mill building campus, last year it opened a new location called The Pub at Baxter which is a restaurant, bar and brewpub. The brand is one that many Mainers have embraced as their go-to. Baxter was of the first Maine breweries to offer variety packs of beer, and I’ve always considered its offerings an easy, crowd-pleasing choice.

This month, founder Luke Livingston announced that he was stepping down from his leadership role at the brewery. Jenn Lever, currently the operations manager, was chosen to step into the role that Livingston will vacate this month. Lever has extensive experience in beverages and manufacturing, including working at PepsiCo in roles that helped production become more efficient while maintaining quality. Lever also has long-standing local ties as an Auburn native. In her role as operations manager, she’s credited with streamlining the hop contracting and ordering process, saving the company money and time when forecasting what hops would be needed for future beers. Her expertise and advice in this area was so sought by Maine brewers, she said she’s heard that some industry folks gave her the nickname Hop Jenn.

Hops are not Lever’s only area of focus going forward. With the change in leadership comes an opportunity to reflect on the brand as a whole. Though the plans aren’t finalized, Lever said the brewery wants to return to the outdoor- and recreation-based roots of the company’s branding and refocus on its core styles, which may mean streamlining its portfolio.

A new India pale lager, MHT reflects Baxter’s return to more outdoorsy branding. Photo courtesy of Baxter Brewing Co.

An inkling of where the branding might be headed is in the latest addition to Baxter’s year-round portfolio, MHT – named after Maine Huts & Trails, a nonprofit that provides backcountry experiences in Maine’s mountains and promotes environmental stewardship to those who want to enjoy the state’s natural beauty.

In the past, Baxter has partnered with Maine Huts & Trails for a variety of fundraising efforts, including hike-in beer dinners at Stratton Brook Hut in Carrabassett Valley. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of MHT (the beer) directly funds the maintenance and upkeep of the 80-mile network of trails that Maine Huts & Trails supports.

The branding on MHT cans is noticeably different than most of Baxter’s current lineup. MHT’s beer label features the Baxter orange color on a shield that looks like a trail marker, and has a skier, hiker and cyclist on it – representing the activities that Maine Huts & Trails caters to. Behind the shield is a clean, minimalist background featuring a treeline and a mountain silhouette. Pamola – the mythical winged moose-turned-Baxter-mascot – is absent from the can.

MHT is an India pale lager, which is a catch-all term that generally refers to a lager that has more hops than its typical style would traditionally dictate. But in the case of MHT, Baxter has taken a step further than simply brewing a lager and adding an extra hop. To balance the dryness typical of an IPL, wheat is used for nearly half of the grains in the beer. This gives the lager more body so it doesn’t taste as thin as lagers usually do, but also not too heavy. The hops are of the piney variety, and the clean-fermenting lager delivers a pleasant drinking experience that would be appropriate on or off the trail year-round.

The changes going forward are already in motion, and the brewery seems like it’s at a turning point. Livingston has set his departure date for Sept. 13.  There will be a gathering/party at The Pub at Baxter to commemorate the torch-passing and a massive milestone for its flagship Stowaway IPA: brewing the 100,000th barrel. To put this in context, a barrel of beer contains 248 16-ounce servings. That means since it hit shelves in 2011, nearly 25 million Stowaways have been produced. I’m looking forward to seeing what Lever’s leadership brings to the next 100,000 barrels.

Carla Jean Lauter is a freelance beer writer and blogger who lives in Lisbon. Follow her beer adventures at:

Twitter: beerbabe

This month, Baxter will brew its 100,000th barrel of Stowaway IPA. Photo courtesy of Baxter Brewing Co.

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