Can Home Brewing Beer Save You Money?
Note: the following is not based on kit brewing with ingredient packs. It is based on a 5 gallon (2 case) extract or all-grain batch using standard equipment and average pricing of ingredients.
Since I began brewing over 10 years ago I’ve noticed that the hobby has grown in popularity, especially as commercial beer prices climb and beer lovers who happen to also be hobbyists or DIYers start to contemplate saving a little money by brewing there own. Can you really brew beer for less than it costs to buy? Well, if you drink micro brews, imported beers, or anything other than mass marketed light lagers, then yes, you can brew your own for less.
A 30 pack of certain pale, light lagers goes for about $ 15. You can’t brew your own beer for as little as that, but technically, if a home brewer made a basic batch of pale ale using about 6.6 lbs. of DME or LME (Dry or Liquid Malt Extract), 2 ounces of hops and a packet of dry yeast, two cases could be brewed for about $ 32.50.
In calculating that estimate I used current pricing of Muntons light malt extract (3 or 3.3 lbs. at about $ 11.50 or $ 11.99 respectively), Cascade hops ($ 2.99 per ounce) and Coopers brewers yeast ($ 2.50 per pack), and I rounded up. Prices may vary depending on supplier, and in the case of hops, supply and demand.
That estimate does not include caps, bottles, or the initial investment for brewing equipment. But once you have your equipment and extras, the ingredients are really the only expense to be concerned with. Any specialty grains, additional hops, or liquid yeasts will add to the cost, and don’t forget shipping or gas expenses. But even if you add specialty grains, an extra ounce of hops and liquid yeast you could still stay below commercial prices, as we’ll see below.
When you do the math, using the above basic recipe, your looking at a cost of about $ 16.25 per case of homebrew, compared to anywhere from $ 27 to $ 30 (or more) per case for the commercial good stuff. So in brewing your own beer, it might be possible to save as much as $ 13.75 per case of beer. Steep a half pound of chocolate malt and use liquid yeast instead of dry and you’ll only add about $ 5 to your ingredient cost. That’s still below commercial prices!
Switch to all-grain brewing and you can save more, since bulk grains cost much less than prepared extracts. For example, 1 lb. of pale 2-row barley malt, suitable for a one step mash, can cost as little as $ 1.90 per lb., versus $ 3.99 per lb. for DME, so an all-grain version of the above basic recipe might save you an additional $ 3.50, or so, per case.
The trade off? You will actually have to work for it, and practice patience. Homebrewing is not for everyone, and it is isn’t always a walk in the park, but the payoff is pouring a refreshing ale that you brewed yourself, and having your friends rave about how much better your brews are than the store bought stuff.
Is that extra $ 13 or $ 16 worth the convenience of popping in to the local liquor store and picking up a six pack of your tried and true favorite ale? Nothing is going to stop us beer lovers from buying our beloved craft brews, but we can enjoy a nice relaxing, and rewarding hobby, plus save a few bucks in the process.