Baxter Brewing Founder Luke Livingston to Retire; Jenn Lever Named President

Baxter Brewing founder Luke Livingston announced Monday that he will retire from the brewery, effective on September 13.

Jenn Lever, Baxter’s current operations manager, will take over as president of the Lewiston, Maine-based craft brewery.

Livingston, 34, who founded Baxter in 2010, said in his retirement announcement that it was “time to find my next adventure.”

Speaking to Brewbound, Livingston said he is unsure of what that new adventure will be, however, he is looking outside of the beer industry. He added that now was the “perfect timing” to pass the torch to Lever, as he’s become less involved in the business’ day-to-day operations over the last couple of years.

“It’s been the most emotional things that I’ve arguably ever done in my life over the last couple of days,” Livingston told Brewbound. “There have been smiles and tears and everything in between. But I think it’s the most logical time. I think it’s the best time and Jenn is really well-equipped, as is the rest of the Baxter team to get through this next chapter.”

Among his greatest accomplishments, Livingston added, was hiring well.

“I sort of hired myself out of a job, in a lot of ways,” he said. “With that, suddenly head above the clouds, I did get antsy. I think like a lot of entrepreneurs, I don’t sit still well. And there was so much excitement for me … in creating something new and starting something from scratch. Once I sort of had hired myself out of a job. I did start to feel like, ‘What’s next?’”

Livingston and his partner, Tom Platz, own 98 percent of Baxter, with the remaining two percent split between two other owners. He declined to comment on whether he would look to sell his stake in the company or maintain a role in the brewery moving forward.

“The ownership is to be determined and what sort of role I continue to have is still to be determined,” he said. “I haven’t ruled it out. I’ve offered to Jenn my ongoing support as long as she needs or wants it. But we’re still working out all of those details.”

As for Lever, who has worked for Baxter for about two years, she is originally from Auburn, Maine, and a high school classmate of Livingston. She brings a background in manufacturing and beverage.

“I take a lot of pride in the fact that Baxter will become a woman-led company; under any circumstances, but especially in this otherwise fairly male-dominated industry,” Livingston said in the announcement.

Baxter was among the fastest-growing craft breweries when it started production in 2011. That year, the company produced 5,000 barrels of beer, with all of its packaged beer in cans.

Baxter has grown to become the third-largest brewery by volume in Maine. In 2018, the company increased production 5 percent, to 19,625 barrels, according to industry trade group the Brewers Association.

Livingston said the company’s volume trajectory for 2019 is similar to last year.

Baxter, which employs about 60 workers, distributes about 19 offerings throughout New England and exports to Canada and the United Kingdom. The company also operates a 5,000 sq. ft. pub, which opened in November 2018, near its production facility.

Livingston’s retirement will coincide with the 100,000th barrel brewed of Stowaway IPA — which accounts for more than 60 percent of Baxter’s overall production — which will be released during a sendoff for Livingston at Baxter’s pub on September 13.

In a statement to Brewbound, Maine Brewers Guild executive director Sean Sullivan pointed to Livingston’s leadership as a member of the organization’s board of directors and most recently as treasurer and events committee chair. He cited Baxter’s early adoption of cans as making a significant environmental impact.

“I think the effect of their leadership has resulted in a huge reduction in carbon footprint from our industry, and Luke certainly deserves credit for this,” Sullivan said. “He’s also had a major positive impact on his hometown, and like many brewers that have followed, showed that breweries can be a source of civic pride and first movers in the redevelopment and the revitalization of ‘Main Street,’ or in the case of Baxter/Maine — revitalization of our vacant mill spaces.”

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