When Matt Cowart was considering making a career change from construction to craft brewing, one thing stood out to him about the brewers he met: They didn’t think of other brewers as competitors, but as colleagues.
That perspective was attractive to him and he went on to found Conversion Brewing just over three years ago.
“That was part of the reason I switched to this industry,” Cowart said, adding that there is a practical reason why rivalries aren’t part of the culture. “Usually, you can sell as much beer as you can make.”
After having the craft beer scene largely to itself in downtown Lebanon, Conversion Brewing was joined by Barsideous Brewing, which has been in operation for about 15 months.
Earlier this month, in the spirit of cooperation, the two companies worked together on a collaboration brew which will be available soon at Barsideous Brewing.
“We wanted to do something with Conversion to show that there’s no rivalry going on,” said Joel Bartman, one of the owners of Barsideous Brewing. “Back in October is when the conversation started and it kind of evolved to when we had fermenters available.”
Bill Bartman, Joel’s brother and one of the co-owners, was interested in crafting a Belgian ale. Cowart had the right ingredients on hand to get that started — Belgian yeast and the right type of hops.
“I already had it, there was no reason not to share them,” Cowart said.
Barsideous Brewing provided the other grains and a few other ingredients which they prefer not to divulge. Bill Bartman and Cowart worked together on a batch which will produce just under four barrels of the Belgian ale.
Barsideous Brewing will have the product — which will have some flavor of orange and chocolate — available the first week of February.
“The week before Valentine’s Day, which would be perfect, chocolate for your sweetheart,” Joel Bartman said.
The plan is that in a couple of months, Bill Bartman will take the same ingredients he provided over to Conversion Brewing, and he and Cowart will brew a second batch there.
At Barsideous Brewing, there are also plans afoot to can a small amount of their product in February. This will be their second canning run.
“We did very well the first time, canned a couple of kegs and sold out,” Joel Bartman said.
At Conversion Brewing, Cowart is always seeking out new opportunities and trying to keep up with demand.
Last July, he partnered with the organizers of the Gambler 500 to create a collaboration brew which was canned so that it could be purchased by the event’s participants. Conversion Brewing also served as one of the event’s official starting points.
That was very good for business. Almost too good.
“Anything that had any hoppiness in it, we sold out in two days,” Cowart said. “We had made some extra, but we weren’t expecting that.”
With a key part of his selection sold out, Cowart made the decision to put guest beers on tap for the first time. That filled the gap until he could get the full range of his own beers back on the menu.
“For about two months we had guest beers this summer. It was actually kind of neat,” Cowart said.
Conversion Brewing also participated in an effort organized by Sierra Nevada Brewing to raise funds for those affected by the Paradise Fire in California. Conversion Brewing joined 1,200 other breweries nationwide in brewing a beer created specifically for the fundraiser. All of the proceeds, which totaled over $2,700 at Conversion Brewing, were donated to the relief effort.