Barsideous Brewing, located on Lebanon’s main strip, is the newest edition to the central Willamette Valley’s ever rising tide of craft beer — and a great one at that.
Co-owner and head brewer Bill Bartman has a passion and knowledge for brewing beer that extends back over a decade, but making top-quality beer was never something he intended to pursue outside the realm of his garage.
Thankfully for craft lovers that changed because the result is a unique and cozy new nanobrewery and restaurant in the heart of downtown. The business occupies the original Kuhn Cinema building, built in the early 1900s. You can still catch a movie next door where the business moved in the 1930s after outgrowing the smaller space, which became the Gem Theater.
Remnants of the old Gem remained in a backroom of the building for years through the tenancy of various occupants, but the space was used for nothing more than storage since the theater’s closure — until Barsideous Brewing moved in.
The space, with original stage, was brought up to code during a remodel prior to Barsideous’ arrival. A dozen small tables and seating, vintage theater lighting and architecture, and an 8-by-7-foot projector screen make for a unique brewery experience. Open mics, live bands, karaoke and sports and film viewing parties have all been hits for the revitalized location, Bartman said.
A 20-tap wall behind the bar features a split of 10 house beers along with guest brews and ciders for the remaining 10. Barsideous’ best sellers include Chocolate Casanova, a Russian imperial stout characterized by dark malt and a chocolate kiss, and Kamacitra, a Belgian IPA that will catch you off guard in the best of ways, said Bartman, a retired high school band teacher and 1973 graduate of Lebanon High.
“The beer has been really well received. We’ll blow four kegs of our stuff before we’ll ever blow one keg on the other side,” Bartman said.
Barsideous beers are currently only available at the brewery, but there are more reasons than that to pay Barsideous a visit. Friday night’s special out of the kitchen is bacon-wrapped fillet medallions covered in bourbon gravy while prime rib is the highlight on Saturdays. Beyond that, the menu includes classic pub grub. Bartman, who’s partial to the medallions, said the kitchen staff consistently goes above and beyond expectations.
Through the years while teaching, Bartman received a slew of colorful nicknames, which is how the brewery got its title. There was Bartinator, H-Bomb, Barticus and Bartsideous — the last being a combo of Bart Simpson’s alter-ego and Star Wars’ Darth Sidious. After a graphic designer began using the name as a placeholder on the beer labels he was designing for the brewery, it “just kind of stuck,” Bartman said.
It took Bartman years of fine-tuning to get his recipes ready for the jump to a 2.5-barrel system, which has been running at least once a week to stay on pace with demand. He began brewing not with the intent to go pro, but as part of a pact with his brother Joel. The two simply wanted to spend more time together and have a couple of cold ones while they were at it. Eventually their nephews Brian and Aaron Franks joined in.
“At some point, we kind of got it in our heads that we could open one,” said Bartman. But he needed a little convincing, which his brother and nephews were obliged to provide. “I was having too much fun, brewing for myself, friends, weddings. I didn’t want to deal with all the work,” said Bartman. “Eventually, I kind of said ‘Alright, alright. If you guys will do the work, I will work on the beer.”
The four men are now partners. Joel Bartman, when not working as a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard, is the brewery’s business manager. Aaron and Brian Franks, of Franks Construction & Remodeling in Albany, are assistant brewers and led the complete remodel of the historic building.
“We all have roots here in Lebanon,” Bartman said.
Before opening, he made sure to pay a visit to nearby Conversion Brewing, which became Lebanon’s first brewery about two years ago.
“Those guys are just great,” Bartman said. “One of the things that we all agreed on was that another brewery would just help bring more interest downtown. We’re both believers in a rising tide floats all boats. It’s been good for both of us.” •