Brewer Q&A: James Long, Barbarian Brewing

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the U.S.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.


James Long, co-owner/Head Brewer, Barbarian Brewing — Garden City, Idaho

BREWER: How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
LONG: When we first opened Barbarian Brewing in 2015, we were hesitant to put a kettle sour or barrel-aged sour on draft because we were worried the beer wouldn’t be well received by customers since it hadn’t really been done in our Boise, Idaho market. In the past four years, we’ve gotten to the point where people expect new, adventurous beers on a regular basis and we aren’t afraid to cross style guidelines, tap three new sours or a new Ice Cream Ale in one week. The change in the Boise beer industry, and the beer industry as a whole, just means that I can be creative, but also need to be changing with the industry.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
LONG: I don’t have one particular mentor in the industry, but rather, Bre (Barbarian co-owner and my wife) and I have a few breweries that we looked to for inspiration when we first started Barbarian: Cascade Brewing, Firestone Walker’s barrel program, Jester King, Sante Adairius, The Rare Barrel, Jolly Pumpkin to name a few. All places that were doing unique barrel-aged/ small-batch beers. We also admired the early trend setters who were able to sell most of their beer on-site in their taprooms so that they could focus on the taproom experience, quality assurance and valuing your brand.

BREWER: Can you share a success story that you are proud of in your job or maybe a story of how you learned from a situation that has altered your thoughts on how you do your job now?
LONG: I’m pretty proud of how our spontaneous fermentation program is coming along. It was a pretty terrifying experiment at first since we had no idea what the terroir and flora of our area would produce. It’s especially risky since it takes at least a year to know if the beer is heading in the right direction. Our first Spawn of Barbarian beer that was blended with Idaho huckleberries was delicious and our newest blend is exceptional as well. I’ve gotten our process down through trial and error to always having a quick and vigorous fermentation start, which I find especially encouraging. I would like to credit Jeff Stuffings at Jester King for telling us to just go for it with our spontaneous program and to not be afraid to dump beer if it didn’t turn out after the first couple spontaneous brews. Thankfully, they’ve all turned out!

BREWER: Can you touch on something your brewery has added lately that’s unique or making your business more successful (it could be equipment, technology or people)?
LONG: People. We’ve been surrounding ourselves with people who are proud to work for us and are personally invested in our company. They go the extra mile and provide great customer service. They help pick up the slack on days where the personal gas tank is running low. Having a smart, dedicated staff who cares makes all the difference in the world.

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
LONG: I wish there was a universal mind set on IPA shelf life (at least for taprooms, good luck trying to regulate that when it hits distribution). There’s nothing worse than being excited to try a new IPA and after your first sip thinking, “Man, I bet this was pretty good a month ago.” We give our IPAs a 4-6 week lifespan to ensure freshness and make sure our patrons get the best experience possible.

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