Budget-Beer Bible | Chapter 3

Previous chapters in the Budget-Beer Bible have discussed ways to find good beer on the cheap, such as locating the elusive unspoiled sale-beer; visiting specialty stores for great deals on seasonals and first runs; and buying beer at its source. Today, however, I’m going to discuss two completely different techniques for getting loaded without bankrupting yourself.

First, check online beer stores. This recommendation comes with a caveat: Beer online is rarely cheap. Even if you chance upon a clearance sale, the shipping will probably gouge you so hard you’ll want to turn off your computer and cry like a hungry baby. That said, the Web can find just about any beer from anywhere. I’d love to visit Westvleteren, Belgium, home of the famously reclusive Westvleteren Brewery, which produces some of the finest ales in the world. My problem? Flying to Europe isn’t an option at the moment. But, thanks to the Internet, I got to sample all three Westvleteren beers (and it was totally worth it). Shopping online helps beer nerds hunt down rare brews from across the globe without needing to actually cross said globe every five minutes. All others should probably avoid it.

Now for the primary point of today’s article: The cheapest beer available is the kind you make yourself. During my recent adventures in homebrewing, I realized that, despite the large initial investment, brewing your own beer is the one of the cheapest ways to go. Here’s a price breakdown:

Commercial Craft Beer: Assuming that you drink roughly five to seven 12-ounce bottles of craft beer per week, at approximately 2 dollars a bottle (often more), your annual beer expense could total almost $700.

Commercial Macro Beer: Even if you buy the super cheap stuff at, let’s say, $15 for a 24 pack, and increasing the number of beers to 10 per week (let’s face it, I’m being generous), you’re still spending more than $300 a year.

Homebrewing: Remember the large initial investment I mentioned?  I spent a little more than $200 on my kit, but that included everything. Other options do exist, e.g., a Mr. Beer kit, which limits brewer control but costs considerably less. Either way, your first year’s total will be a bit high.

But the whole mess quickly pays for itself. Recipe kits only cost 30 to 50 bucks on their own, and each makes 5 gallons of beer, which fills about 48 twelve-ounce bottles. So, going back to seven beers per week (since we’re once again talking about flavorful craft beer), your first year of homebrewing will cost you almost $500 (if you buy the expensive equipment, as I did) – but the year after that, with the necessary equipment already acquired, the total drops below $300. If you did it right, you’ll be drinking beer that costs less than the cheap stuff and tastes as good as the pricey stuff. And it’ll get even cheaper as you begin writing your own recipes and buying raw ingredients instead of kits.

I’ll level with you: I’m terrible at math (I’m a writer, so I never use it beyond calculating tips), and the figures above are most likely inaccurate, or at best sloppy and unscientific. But I think my logic is sound. Making your own beer is a cheap, fun option for fans of good beer — as long as you don’t mind the investment of time, energy, and a little extra cash at the beginning.

4 Responses to “Budget-Beer Bible | Chapter 3”
  1. Deb says:

    Saving $ & having good beer. Good idea! Let us know how it turns out.

  2. Tom Butcher says:

    Let’s also not forget the possibility of being way more experimental than even some of the most out-there craft breweries are will to get!

    • Scott says:

      Of course! Once you have some experience in the arena of homebrewing (and an expandable kit like the one I bought), you can control every little aspect of your beer. One of the coolest things about the hobby, in my opinion.

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