Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Denny Conn Oral History Interview, May 1, 2017

Oregon State University

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0:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Ok

Segment Synopsis: Conn introduces himself and provides the current date, birth date and the location of the interview.

Keywords: Beer--Books; Craft beer; Craft brewing; Home brewing

Subjects: Beer Beer and brewing Corvallis (Or.) Musicians Podcasts Writing

0:50 - Early experiences in Iowa and Oregon

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Partial Transcript: So you were not born in Oregon.

Segment Synopsis: Conn describes the character of his hometown, Newton, Iowa, and the career his father had. He discusses his decision to attend college as opposed to running the family lumberyard, and how his career plans shifted away from being a chemistry teacher. He recounts his experiences as a guitarist in numerous bands as a child and after leaving college, and how he continued to play when he moved to the Eugene, Oregon area. Conn then explains how he got involved in a digital audio company, how that lead him to managing world tours with several bands, and how he ended up starting a recording studio. He notes how his wife got him started with home brewing, and how his love for the hobby related to cooking.

Keywords: Digital Audio technology; Home brewing; Julia Child; Music--Rock; Musical groups--Management; The French Chef (Television program); Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Musical group); Water filters--Production

Subjects: Animation Beer and brewing Child, Julia College dropouts Electronic technicians Emmy awards English teachers Eugene (Or.) Family businesses Hult Center for Performing Arts (Eugene, Or.) Iowa State University Lane Community College (Eugene, Or.) Lumberyards Maytag Company Musicians Newton (Iowa) Recording studios Rock bands Supertramp (Musical group) Valentine's Day Water filters

13:13 - Exploration of beer culture / Early home brewing experiences

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Partial Transcript: So had you, so you traveled a lot. Had you tried different

Segment Synopsis: Conn describes his exposure to different beers while traveling in bands, and what kinds of craft beer were available at the time. He explains his challenges with getting overly involved in hobbies, and how that’s burnt out his interest in music over the years. He then discusses his early explorations into recipe development, and some early awards he received. He recounts his introduction to the brewing method of batch sparging, and how he began working with brewer Ken Schwartz to show the validity of the method. He notes how he created his cheap-and-easy brewing system, and the public resistance that came with it.

Keywords: Batch sparging; Beer--diversity; Brewing methods; Brewing techniques; Brewing--Experimentation; Brewpubs; Brown ales; Craft beer; Home brewing; Information--Accessibility; Lane County Fair; Professional burnout; Recipes--Development

Subjects: Accessibility Beer and brewing Brewing machinery. [from old catalog] Burnout, Professional Cooling systems Critique Diversity EXPERIMENTATION Hobbies Information Internet Lane County (Or.) Recipes Recipes and ideas Wort

21:14 - Public response to Conn's ideas / Home brewing values

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, that's what I was going to ask you. How did people

Segment Synopsis: Conn describes the main complaints the public provided towards batch sparging online, and his efforts to dispel those complaints. He discusses the importance of adjusting your recipes to the brewing system you have, and how that relates to batch sparging. He then details the main themes of his most recent book, and how his interests in brewing technology are reflected there. Conn explains his preference to keep brewing simple and fun over getting obsessed with the technology involved.

Keywords: Batch sparging; Brewing--Books; Brewing--Ingredients; Commercial brewing; Complaint; Convenience; Fly sparging; Gravity (Beer); Home brewers; Home brewing; PicoBrew; Recipes--Design

Subjects: Beer and brewing Beer--Judging Brewers Brewing--Automation Brewing--Equipment and supplies Cooling systems Criticism Efficiency Engineers Hobbies Internet Quality assurance Quality control Recipes Technology Wort

26:59 - Growing involvement in home brewing

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Partial Transcript: Did, were there people when you were growing up who were

Segment Synopsis: Conn notes his family’s interest in homebrewing, and how the activity didn’t come to his awareness until later in life. He describes how he began developing his Rye IPA recipe while publishing content online, and the positive response he got about the resulting beer. He discusses how Rogue Ales and Spirits were inspired to do their own Rye IPA based on his recipe, and how the two beers differ. Conn then details the yeast farming work he’s done, and how he got a yeast strain added to the Wyeast collection through his American Homebrewers Association connections.

Keywords: Attenuation (brewing); Batch sparging; Beer journalism; Beer--Writing; Brewers Digest; Home brewers; Home brewing; Rogue Ales and Spirits; Yeast culturing; Yeast ranching

Subjects: American Homebrewers Association Beer and brewing Branding (Marketing) Fruit wines Internet Malt Marriage Old growth forests Promotions Recipes Rye Wine Wyeast Laboratories Yeast Yeast--Research Yeast--Selection

35:32 - Improvements in ingredient access / Home brew clubs in the late 1990s

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Partial Transcript: So at that point in the mid-2000s, Wyeast was large

Segment Synopsis: Conn describes his response to his yeast strain being carried by large companies, and the potential for exploring yeast culturing with microbiologists. He notes his role in government with the American Homebrewers Association, as well as where his ideas stem from. Conn then discusses his initial explorations into joining a homebrewing club, and how his local has shifted more towards technical work from partying over the years.

Keywords: Cascade Brewers Society; Home brewing; Home brewing clubs; Social clubs; White Labs; White Labs Yeast and Fermentation

Subjects: Beer and brewing Brewing--Equipment and supplies Clubs Clubs Membership Eugene (Or.) Microbiology Parties Recipes Wyeast Laboratories Yeast

40:57 - Overlap between home and commercial brewing / Writing home brewing books

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Partial Transcript: Was there in that club, or maybe just even in the general home brew

Segment Synopsis: Conn discusses the overlap between homebrewing and commercial brewing in a club setting, and how homebrewing can be the start of a brewing career. He notes the job offers he’s received from breweries, and why he’s turned them down. He then describes how his writing partnership with Drew Beechum began, and the different aspects of brewing experimentation they each brought to their first book. He details the editing process for their book, the concepts for their second book, and how they’re publishing their next book with the American Homebrewers Association.

Keywords: Books and publishing; Books and writing; Brewing--Experimentation; Commercial brewing; Experimental brewing; Home brew clubs; Home brewing; Writing process

Subjects: American Homebrewers Association Archetypes in literature Beer and brewing Book editors Books Books--Marketing Brazil Breweries Brewers Brewers Publications (Firm) Brewing industry Brewing--Equipment and supplies Burnout, Professional Car talk (Radio program) EXPERIMENTATION Experiments Hobbies Podcasts Publicity PUBLISHERS Recipes Writing

54:52 - Process of writing brewing books / Development of brewing style

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Partial Transcript: So do you, it sounds like in the model that you and Drew have now

Segment Synopsis: Conn discusses the different approaches he and Beechum has to the writing process for their books, and how they work together to make a successful product. He also describes their different thought processes for developing a recipe, and the importance of experience in defining your “taste imagination.” He details the different ways you can mix flavors together prior to making the beer, as well as his increased interest in food. He explains his opinion of highly experimental beer recipes compared to Beechum.

Keywords: Flavor profiles; Food--Diversity; Home brewing; Ingredients; Open mindedness; Speech and debate; Speech and debate clubs

Subjects: Beer and brewing Beer--Flavor and odor Cooking Creative writing Creativity Curiosity Food Narrative art Recipes Writing--Research

61:43 - Importance of brewing styles / Relationship with commercial brewers

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, and so I guess I wonder then about the role of style

Segment Synopsis: Conn explains the value of following a brewing style when practicing your skills or competing, and his process of perfecting recipes. He states the importance of homebrewing as an activity you do for yourself. He then describes his interactions with commercial brewers, and how many of them started out as home brewers.

Keywords: 21st Amendment Brewery; Beer--Styles; Brewing--Conferences; Brewing--Styles; Commercial brewing; Home brewing; Precision; Precision and accuracy

Subjects: Beer and brewing Beer--Judging Breweries Brewers Competitions Conferences Perfection Podcasts Recipes Standards

66:34 - Changes in the home brewing community

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Partial Transcript: How has home brewing changed? And that's a very sort of

Segment Synopsis: Conn describes the challenging of accessing ingredients, and how that challenge impacted brewers’ abilities to recreate traditional styles in the past. He discusses how ingredient and information availability has shifted since he first started home brewing, and how the homebrewing community has grown over the years. Conn then analyzes the current demographics of the homebrewing community, and how the American Homebrewers Association encourages diversity. He examines the character of most home brewers as self-sufficient, and how the community is shifting more towards homebrewing as a casual hobby rather than a passion.

Keywords: Access to ingredients; Brewing technology; European beers; Home brewing; Ingredient quality; Ingredients; PicoBrew; Women in brewing

Subjects: Accessibility American Homebrewers Association Beer and brewing Brewing--Automation Brewing--Equipment and supplies Cooking Creativity Demographics Hobbies Hops Malt Oktoberfest Quality assurance Recipes Self-sufficiency Technology

73:00 - Regional changes in craft beer culture

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Partial Transcript: Shifting a little bit awkwardly maybe to our location, and regionally the Northwest

Segment Synopsis: Conn notes the growth of beer culture in Eugene in recent years, and which breweries will survive as the market contracts in the future. He describes how the brewing industry has grown in Eugene, and how beer quality has been key to the success of numerous businesses in the area. He discusses the arrival of small hop farms in the area, and the attraction many brewers have to growing their own hops. He explains the challenges of growing hops on a small scale.

Keywords: Bottle shops; Claim52 Brewing Company; Coldfire Brewing Company; Convenience; Home brewing; Hop farming; Industry fluctuations; Market fluctuations

Subjects: Agriculture Beer Beer and brewing Breweries Eugene (Or.) Farming Grains Hops Malt

79:07 - Concluding thoughts

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Partial Transcript: So when we set this up, what did you think I was gonna ask?

Segment Synopsis: Conn describes his general approach to interviews, and his early fascinations with brewing history. He discusses the influence of history and style on the brewing process, and how some brewers recreate historical methods. He explains the expenses and effort involved in homebrewing, and the payoff of developing community. He details the general advice he gives to home brewers who are interested in a brewing career, and the challenge of professional burnout in the craft.

Keywords: Brewing--books; Brewing--expenses; Brewing--styles; Commercial brewing; Convenience; Craft beer; Home brewing; Professional brewing

Subjects: Accessibility Barley Beer and brewing Books Brewing industry Brewing--History Burnout, Professional Collaboration Community Fascinations Malt Shadowing, Job