A Quest For Fire

Autumn. It’s the worst.

When the leaves start turning gorgeous shades of orange, yellow, and red? Come on.

The end of suffering through days of swelter when no one wants to be outside? Such a loss.

Pretty soon I won’t have to mow my lawn or weed my flower beds? Well, Great. I’ll have to find something fun to take up my weekends instead.

And of course Autumn means the fire pit will make its inevitable return, along with cool evenings, warm company, and tranquil vibes.

Ugh. Am I right?

Sarah represents Baxter on a warm day
From summer…

Typically when I think of the fall, I am transported back to the soccer days of my youth. There was a distinct transition from tending goal in a long-sleeve shirt, barely avoiding heatstroke, then one day running into the keep with a chill on my shoulders. Now each August, knowing there’s only a month before I can enjoy fall beers, I anticipate the season with a different perspective. Of course, I can’t control the weather. And I don’t play soccer anymore. Thus, I resign myself to the terrible majesty that is New England autumn, and the unbearable splendor that is fall beer.

I started with Baxter Brewing in September 2019, so I suppose fall brings some good things. I’ve been a craft beer lover for years, and working for a brewery was always a dream of mine. Finding a Human Resources job in this industry, however, is difficult. Few craft breweries have HR because they are small. I’m lucky. I found a great brewery, and now have what many people consider “a cool job.” I agree, and feel fortunate to have such easy access to some of the best beer in Maine.

Fast forward six months. I am just beginning to hit my stride. It’s becoming clear how my role can best support the employees and business. We just filled several new, fantastic positions. Things looked bright. Then, well…COVID-19; and everything just paused.

Management’s focus became the well-being of our employees, their families, and what needed to be done to keep the business afloat. We were forced to lay off many employees, a painful experience for a small organization with such a cohesive staff. Operations that would usually be planned out months in advance were taken day-by-day. The team, to its credit, willingly made sacrifices and has powered through the last 17 months as a family. It may sound odd, but Baxter is a better brewery because of the pandemic. We met challenges head on, adjusted where necessary, and persevered. This means you get even better beer than you did before.

Throughout the pandemic, with normal life interrupted, sitting around my backyard fire pit became a steady comfort. There’s something fascinating about flames flickering. A primal lure draws us to stare into fire. We’ve been doing this for millennia. It’s still used as a means of survival and socializing – warmth, light, a method for cooking, tool creation, an inexpensive way to smell outdoorsy. We even miniaturized fire to light up jack-o-lanterns and dining-room candles. And while I doubt our earliest ancestors were originally “throwing back some brewskis,” today a beer around a fire pit or bonfire is an added bonus.

Sarah and her partner, Graham, smiling for an autumn photograph
…to fall.

Last fall my boyfriend and I caught a clear night and downloaded an app that uses your GPS to display an interactive map of the night sky. Stargazing – another simple yet interesting thing that has been used for survival and entertainment since ancestors long gone. There is some light pollution in our back yard, but if it gets clear enough, you can still identify plenty. We let the fire burn out and then opened the app. I felt miniscule in the universe, yet connected to the world around us. Not a “Snow White-style” connected with birds and deer flocking about, but rather something elemental. It was a good night.

Autumn is that equilibrium between the heat of summer and the deep freeze of winter – it is itself a balancing act. Kind of like a quilted vest. Or yes, like how Firestack Red IPA balances the best of Out of Range and Ice Storm. It has the brightness of the former and some of the sweetness of the latter. The beer and the season succeed in making people happy by finding a crisp middle ground.

Did I say happy? Whoops, gave away my position there. Ok, fine – I love autumn!

Whether you are around a fire or not, wherever you are, I hope you will join me in raising a can or glass of Firestack in honor of autumn, the best time of year. Cheers!

— Sarah Towsley
Human Resources Manager

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