When executives of a retirement community north of Tucson filed an application for a brewery license last year, it raised eyebrows among federal regulators.

“What are you doing? And, where?” George Atwell, vice president of food and beverage for Robson Resort Communities, recalled with a chuckle. “There were some challenges.”

But there has not been any challenge in selling the brew to residents.

The recently opened brewery at the the clubhouse in SaddleBrooke Ranch, north of Tucson, has been a hit.

“It turned out to be one of the most popular things we’ve ever done,” Atwell said. “It gets a lot of interest, ‘You built a brewery at a retirement community?’ ”

Currently serving up a blonde ale, the clubhouse is going through more than six kegs a week, said brewmaster Josh Johnson, a Marana High School graduate.

On a recent afternoon, some SaddleBrooke residents toasted with brews after a round of golf.

“I’m a Coors Light guy, but I’ve enjoyed the local brew,” said Craig Powers, 64. “It’s nice to have one in the neighborhood.”

“It’s excellent,” said John Whitehead, 66. “I like microbrews. It’s a good drink after golfing,” which he does about three times a week.

“Josh talks to us and gets feedback,” regarding issues such as cloudiness in the beer, said Brian Crowe, 64, as he held his glass up to the light. “It’s great beer, and then I take my golf cart home on private roads.”

Johnson started brewing beer his senior year of high school and has won several brewing awards.

“I get to do my hobby for a living,” he said. “If you enjoy what you’re doing, you don’t work a day in your life.”

Aside from the brewery, the new 40,000-square-foot clubhouse has a ballroom and auditorium, a full-service grill, a pizza station and an outdoor terrace and event lawn.


Arizona’s weather and tax-friendly environment continues to draw retirees.

The state is second in the nation (behind Florida) for migration of people over the age of 60, according to SmartAsset.

As that population grows, so, too, does the development of assisted living facilities and retirement communities in Southern Arizona.

Some assisted-living communities have added equestrian therapy or co-living environments, where one spouse can live independently while the other lives in a memory-care unit on the same campus.

Meanwhile, retirement communities have added dance classes and yoga to their offerings.

Unique amenities, such as the brewery, can be eye-catching.

“I think it has appealed to a lot of buyers who have come to us,” Atwell said. “It is a big interest point when they tour the community and got to see the brewery and visit with Josh.”

He said residents have inquired about brewing other beers, which Robson hopes to do in the summer when the brewmaster will have more time to experiment after the snowbirds leave.

Robson has more than 50,000 residents in retirement communities in Arizona and Texas.

The SaddleBrooke clubhouse is open to the public Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The main office for the community is at 59680 E. Robson Circle in Oracle.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz


Gabriela's newspaper career began at the Tucson Citizen in '86 as the "movie-times girl" where she'd call local theaters for showtimes. Since then, she's written about crime, education, immigration, trade and business. She's been with the Star since 2007.