Two Craft Beer Enthusiasts Turn Their Hobby into Much More

By Chris Lynch
Freelance Writer

“I'm retired and determined to keep it fun,” says Denny Conn, describing his free time and homebrewing hobby. “I'd never want to do it as a job. I started 20 years ago with a store-bought kit my wife gave me. My first beer came out good, and I was hooked.”

Before he retired three years ago, Denny worked in computer networking and ran his own recording studio. He's not interested in those things anymore, and he's not going to let that happen to brewing, he says, even though he's on the Governing Committee for the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and used his computer skills to update the club's online presence and create discussion forums.

He's known for his experimentation and self–described “cheap ‘n’ easy” system of brewing. “I wrote a book, ‘Experimental Homebrewing,’ with co–author Drew Beechum, and then we wrote another one, ‘Homebrew All–Stars,’ and did two podcasts. The first book was so popular, I've been invited to speak at industry conferences. Homebrewing started as a hobby and turned into all of this other cool stuff.”

“My wife does not at all begrudge me the time it takes to brew, work on books and be away from home. And she does like beer.”
– Denny Conn, homebrewing icon

For someone who didn't want to make this a job, Denny surely keeps busy at it. His speaking engagements have taken him all over the U.S. and to Brazil, Chile, New Zealand and Australia.

“My wife, Paula, does not at all begrudge me the time it takes to brew, work on books and be away from home. She does like beer and has been very supportive,” he says, “I'm a lucky guy.”

Sandy Cockerham is also recently retired and serves on the AHA. She is chairperson of the competition committee, helping to set rules for the National Homebrew Competition.

“I judge beer more than I actually brew these days,” she says. “ I have the understanding of brewing and a good palate for hop flavors, aromas, malt an dyeast characteristics. I judge 20 to 25 competitions per year. It takes practice, so I just keep doing it.”

Sandy started simply, too, with a brew kit she bought at a yard sale in the 1980s. She says there's so much more today in the way of information, quality ingredients and sanitation. She works hard at it but keeps it fun.

“Now that I'm retired, I don't have to get up as early, and every day is a vacation day. I spent more time away this past summer than I spent at home as I visited friends in New England, ate lobster rolls and visited craft breweries.”

They are dedicated brew experts, but Denny and Sandy offer suggestions to keep this hobby within reach. Number one, simple is okay – you don't need the fanciest equiptment. And to save money, buy bulk ingredients and try techniques such as banking yeast and all–grain brewing.

“Brewing your own won't save you a lot of money compared to purchasing the great selection of craft beers available out there,” Sandy says. “But you can create things you cannot find and you have the joy of being a maker.”

Find the right mix for your retirement planning. Visit Jackson.com

The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and individuals quoted and should not be construed as a recommendation or as complete. Chris Lynch is not affiliated with Jackson National Life Distributors LLC.

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