The long-awaited debut beer from Baxter Brewing Company of Lewiston Maine hit the shelves last week, and everyone I’ve talked to is wondering the same thing. There’s been a lot of talk about them being a can-first brewery (their motto is “We do what we can. We can what we do“), bucking in the face of the conventional, yet misguided wisdom that glass is preferable to cans in terms of preserving a beer’s quality and flavor – and yet the question remains – there’s been a lot of talk about the cans, but has anyone actually tasted the beer?

Well, I’m happy to say that their first beer, Pamola Xtra Pale Ale is now on sale, if you can find it that is. It’s flying off the shelves pretty quickly so I thought I’d be one of the first to bring you an actual review of Luke Livingston et. al’s first entrance into the Maine beer landscape. I was excited, too, to learn that several of the ingredients for making this beer also came from Maine, a true nod to the local economy. It contains:

5 different premium malts including 1 from Aroostook County, Maine
4 different hops, 2 from a small Willamette Valley, Oregon grower
Pure, soft water from Lake Auburn, Maine

The label also suggests that its “subtle and sophisticated flavors from choice barley and select hops combined with cold conditioning give this beer its exceptional drinkability.” Overall, the label design is very nice mix of modern typography, and I have to hand it to whoever designed it, you can’t confuse it with any other can on the market.

I poured it out into a Pilsner glass and wasn’t surprised to see the typical straw color of a really light pale ale. The head was appropriately springy, but the smell was just a little bit different. I’m used to light beers like this having an almost acrid backbone of some of the more german malts and hops, but in this case I got instead some fruitier notes that are more commonly associated with lagers. There isn’t a lot of aroma, but it’s there.

I decided to take a sip and downed the first gulp enthusiastically, though I was surprised to find that it was incredibly easy to drink. Though, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised considering the market for this beer. This is going to be the one that I see everywhere this summer on picnic tables, campsites, boats and docks – anywhere that bottles can’t go or where there is a yearning for something that just tastes good. This is a really pleasant brew and the carbonation is just right. Any more and it would be too sharp for me, any less and it might fall flat. I’m happy, also, that there’s no dryness, no bite for an aftertaste, which makes it very quenching. That being said, per the style of being a very pale ale, it is very pale. There not a ton there in terms of strength of flavor, and there are other pale ales that have a lot more hoppy assertiveness. However, it is those qualities that make it perfect for a hot day when what you want is something to cool you down that’s still made with authentic craft ingredients.

Baxter is a welcome addition to the Maine beer scene, there’s certainly nothing like it in the state. I wish Luke and Baxter the best as they continue. I am also very eager for the next release, the Stowaway IPA which I hear is a hop bomb that packs a bit more punch than their initial offering.