Delivering babies in the Alaskan bush to becoming a brewmaster in Boise, Idaho, seems like a curious turn of events, but that’s the journey James Long took to get where he is today. When he decided he couldn’t work as a nurse providing medical care to those in harsh, isolated locations and his wife BreAnne Hovley didn’t want to sit at a desk any longer, they opened Barbarian Brewing. He makes beer and she oversees the business side of the operations.

While trying to find a good name for their venture, their dog Conan laid his head on Long’s lap. The husky wasn’t named for Conan the Barbarian, but that popped into Long’s head. “The name fit my style and personality and the domain was open,” he adds.

Sip Northwest recently caught up with Long to find out about his ice cream ales, making a Girl Scout’s day and his motivation.

1) How did you come up with the idea for ice cream ales?

I looked at the trends and noticed everyone was doing milkshake ales, so why not try ice cream ales. The best part about our ice cream ales is beer haters love them. That helps broaden our base. And it’s kind of fun. Who goes into a store and buys 100 pounds of Reese’s Pieces, melts them and adds the results to beer? Or who asks a Girl Scout for 50 boxes of Thin Mints? I like to tweak what others are doing and make it our own. And this works. Reese’s Pieces Ice Cream Ale is our fastest moving beer of all time.

2) Which of your “fun” beers didn’t work out?

The Peach Matcha Sour didn’t move well. I liked it, though. Nothing has gone terribly wrong because we add flavors a little at a time to get what we want so we don’t spoil an entire batch.

3) What motivates you?

Our pride in putting out a good quality product. We work hard to do it right. Our customers spend $5 or $6 on a beer so I want them to be happy, have fun, enjoy their drink, forget their worries and give them something to talk about.

4) What did you learn while working as a nurse that helps you in making beer?

I began my advanced education as a bio-chem major and switched to nursing so that chemistry and science background helps greatly. At the peak of my career, I worked in trauma and medical evacuation, which required critical thinking and problem solving. So does beer brewing.