Photo by Gail Oberst
Tucked away in the fertile wine country of Yamhill County, a brewer tinkers away in his nondescript brewing shed. Paul Long, winner of the 2005 Ninkasi Award for homebrewers and founder of Long Brewing, has a well-earned reputation as not only one of the state’s best brewers, but as a maker of some of the finest commercial beers in the state.
The electrical engineer-turned-brewer has a secret up his sleeve: a brewing system of his own design.
“I had to have it custom made because there wasn’t any system out there that could do what I wanted to do,” says Long, who spent 40 years as a wine drinker before going all-in with beer brewing.
The three-and-a-half barrel, all-steam system is perfectly suited for the Newberg brewer’s needs.
“I like to make delicate beers,” says Long, who is currently working on a north German-style pilsner. “Clean beers with defined layers.”
Steam allows for a soft boil, gently succoring out the softer notes of the malts and hops. Even on his heavier beers, such as the aptly named Wee Heavy, you’ll taste each of the 12 malts in a succession through the finish. You’ll find no acid bombs or oily ales in Long’s oeuvre. He believes his beer is best served in a wine glass.
It’s all a part of Long’s “no compromise” motto.
“I make beers without compromise,” says Long as he rubs one of his frozen cascade hops from Yakima between his hands and takes a long whiff. “I use only the best hops from two farms—never pellets—only the best malts and the perfect yeast for every one of my beers.”
Long approaches brewing with the meticulous attention to detail you’d expect from a former engineer for Hewlett-Packard.
The still is equipped with four separate clusters of five temperature sensors. The entire system is hooked up to the Wi-Fi, allowing him to monitor it from his phone when he’s judging beer miles away.
“A single degree off and the beer changes entirely” says Long.
Every step of the process is as closely monitored, from the soft boiling to the pumping—”We learned with wine that you need to crush the grapes gently, I use the same approach with pumping” says Long. The whole brewing process is designed to mitigate oxidation, tannins and diacetyls to create clean beer.
And Long is always looking for new techniques to improve his beer.
“I freeze my hops in a vacuum-sealed bag to dry them but I’m always looking for better ways to preserve my hops,” says Long as he swirls his Vienna lager in a wine glass. “This is an exciting time in brewing. My hop-growing friend employs a chemist now. There are ways to locate the sulfur compounds in a hop down to the quadrillionth—the quadrillionth!”
“We are just now getting into the real science of brewing.”