When I agreed to work for Baxter Brewing in the summer of 2020, a fresh start was all I had in mind. Not just your typical “new job” fresh start, mind you, but a full life reset was my aim; I would soon be packing my bags and moving across the country on a whim. I was not overly concerned with long term planning, or where the brewing industry might take me, and if I’m being honest… I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going to lay my head at night. If this sounds like absolutely ludicrous decision making, that’s because it was! Up until that point in my life I would have generally characterized myself as overly cautious, addicted to the comforts of the well-known, and someone who wanted to exert as little effort as possible when making life plans. Deciding to pack everything I owned into my car and driving 2,000 miles across the U.S. was, if anything, an indication that I was desperate for something new at any cost.
While I had plenty of personal motivations for such a drastic shift in my life, the fact remains that Baxter as an employer started out as a stepping stone for me. In my eyes Baxter was essentially pre-designated to be the facilitator of great life change, rather than my main focus. Does this mean I had no intention of growing with the company? Of course not; I knew from the outset that anything could happen, and I was always open to the possibility that Baxter could become a long-term passion. There was no denying, however, that I massively underestimated the impact Baxter would have on me upon arrival.
The life I left in Texas could be characterized by a great number of things, but the career I stepped away from had essentially stripped me of my identity. I so desperately wanted to feel appreciated, heard, and I yearned to craft something with my own two hands. I joined Baxter as a member of the packaging team; I spent most of my days filling kegs, operating the canning line, and performing quality checks on every container we produced. The work was good, and the output was tangible, but the perspective-altering change wasn’t really obvious until a few weeks had passed. Every single can, every keg, everything Baxter Brewing made… my hands touched! I could walk the aisles of my local grocery store and see the product that I packaged! I could pick up a 12 pack of Stowaway, read the pack date, and remember exactly how I felt the day it was packaged, and even recall what hardships were overcome to get that beer out the door and onto shelves. It instantly became this very visceral and tangible payoff that I hadn’t felt before. When people in the community commented on the quality of our beer, they were commenting on my quality of work! (I would be remiss if I didn’t include an acknowledgment that I was and am merely one part of a wonderful TEAM of production members, this was/is NOT a one-person effort! However, for the sake of conveying how I processed these newfound emotions at the time, I use I and my). To put it simply: I felt like I was making an impact, with a new set of skills to boot.
After nearly three years of packaging product, the day finally came for another new change: it was time to learn cellar work. Packaging was already a cool experience with a great payoff, but becoming a cellarman has been a whole new level of rad. I am now responsible for making sure every ounce of product we produce is properly maintained, stored, moved, and manicured. Brewers make beer, packagers package beer, and every moment of a beer’s life between those two steps has become my responsibility. Learning precisely what each beer requires to be happy and healthy has been incredibly interesting, and continuous learning makes working in craft beer so rewarding. Beer is essentially this beautiful living and breathing organism that responds to temperature, environment, and so much more, and at the heart of it all I get to be the one to pull the strings during such a critical moment in a beer’s lifespan.
I may still be in the early stages of truly becoming a well-rounded cellarman, but my transition within Baxter has already proven fruitful. Much like my initial transition from a metropolitan corporate work environment to Baxter Brewing’s packaging team, transitioning from packaging to the cellar has shown me that there are so many ways the craft brewing industry can surprise you. Small teams provide intimate spaces to create tasty beer, engaging dialogues, and lasting skills through collaborative efforts. My time with Baxter may not have originally started as a passionate long-term investment in myself, but time has shown that with a great team and a desire to learn, a new perspective on life can come from the most unexpected places. Baxter, and the state of Maine as a whole, gave me a fresh new hold on life, and for that I am continuously grateful. Go out there and make something with your own two hands today, do something that produces tangible results, and tell yourself you did a good job. You deserve it.