Can You Save Money with Homebrew?

piggy_bank-beer_money_homebrewIn my recent post on beeronomics – how the cost of bottled beer impacts your budget – I highlighted several ways beer lovers can save some cash, courtesy of Chad Lothian’s great post, “Craft Beer on a Budget.”

An original draft of that post opted to talk about homebrewing, but was dropped due to space. With some nudging from Oliver at Literature and Libation, I’ve decided to take a look at how my homebrewing has helped save me money on beer.

Surprisingly, it’s quite a bit.

Over two years, I’ve brewed 14 extract batches. Of those, I kept details on how much I spent on 11 of them. Below is a chart showcasing the beer I made, how much I spent on ingredients for each beer and the cost per bottle, which I’ve extrapolated to show how much a six-pack of my beer would cost.

I determined the cost per bottle based on an average of 42 12-ounce bottles per five-gallon batch, with one exception being my watermelon wheat, which provided 50 bottles thanks to healthy dosages of watermelon juice that upped the amount of liquid available.

Because it may matter for commercial brewers and how they price beer, I’ve also included the ABV of my beers, which was amateurly deducted through my hydrometer.

Beer

(K) = Prepared Kit (R) = My Recipe

Ingredient Cost

Cost per Bottle

Cost per

Six-Pack

ABV

Jalapeno Blonde (K)

$30

71 cents

$4.26

6.5%

Bass Ale Clone (K)

$33

79 cents

$4.74

5%

Belgian Saison (K)

$39

93 cents

$5.58

6%

Beer/Cider Hybrid (K)

$40

95 cents

$5.70

7.3%

Poor Richard’s Ale (R)

$45

$1.07

$6.42

5.5%

Apricot Wheat (K)

$47

$1.12

$6.72

6%

Blueberry Wheat (R)

$48

$1.14

$6.84

6.5%

Honey Basil Ale (R)

$48

$1.14

$6.84

7%

Imperial IPA (R)

$63

$1.50

$9.00

9.2%

Watermelon wheat (R)*

$65

$1.30*

$7.80

7%

Double IPA w/ honey (K)

$66

$1.57

$9.42

8%

*Watermelon wheat yielded 50 12-ounce bottles due to use of watermelon juice, which increased overall amount of liquid

When you look at it like that, things seem pretty good. At best, I’m spending about half of what a craft beer six-pack may cost and at worst, I’m more or less breaking even.

I like this even more considering the cost of my more “exotic” recipes, where I spent about $15 on watermelons and $12 on blueberries. For my Honey Basil Ale, I only had to buy a jar of honey because I pulled basil leaves from my backyard.

But what about when I compare my beer and their prices to commercial equivalents? Here’s five of my beers and their prices compared to professional brew alternatives:

Bryan’s Beer per Six Pack

Commercial Beer per Six Pack

Price Difference

Bass Ale Clone – $4.74

Bass Ale – $8

-$3.26

Apricot Wheat – $6.72

Magic Hat #9 – $8

-$1.28

Blueberry Wheat – $6.72

Sea Dog Blueberry – $9

-$2.28

Honey Basil Ale – $6.84

Bison Organic Honey Basil – $9

-$2.16

Watermelon Wheat – $7.80

21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon – $9

-$1.20

I’m still coming out on top per batch, ranging from saving $8.40 on my batch of 50 bottles of watermelon wheat to $22.82 on 42 bottles of my Bass Ale clone.

But of course these numbers only deal with the cost of each batch individually. I’ve also spent about $300 on “start-up costs” for my equipment, in addition to the dozens of hours I’ve spent making beer. For fun, let’s see how those costs impact my bottom line.

The $300 equipment cost spread out (so far) over 14 batches comes to $21.43 per batch right now – that will drop over time as I make more beer. I also spend four hours on each batch from when I first pull out equipment to when it’s clean and put away.

The additional cost of equipment dramatically impacts the cost per batch, making the cheapest brew, Jalapeno Blonde, go from $30 to $52.82. I don’t know what kind of price I’d put on my time, but the good thing is I make my beers early in the morning on weekends, so the only real thing I’m missing is either sleep or watching TV. The tradeoff cost of that compared to making beer should be moot.

So what does this tell us?

If you ignore the cost of equipment – essentially the cost of “doing business” – making and drinking homebrew can actually be a really easy way to save money over buying beers from the store. Of course, you have 40 to 50 bottles of every batch to drink which may get repetitive, but you’ve also got 40 to 50 bottles of every batch to drink.

So there’s that.

Why worry about money? Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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25 thoughts on “Can You Save Money with Homebrew?

  1. Nice analysis. It’s cool that equipment costs drop off the more we brew, but not so much if you’re like me and keep buying new, fancy gadgets. That can’t be helping my bottom line.

    Oh well, I can’t really put a price on love. Well, I’m sure I can, but it’s probably very, very high.

    • Price of love? Anywhere from $10,000 to $28,400. Or, at least, for one day to declare love.

      Oh, I’m sorry, that’s just for us married jokers. (But not me, thankfully)

      But seriously, folks, my one saving grace is my lack of buying new equipment. It helps that I stick to extract-steep for my batches because all-grain can really pump costs up. What’s the fanciest piece of equipment you own?

      • utter falsehood that all grain will pump up cost up. You probably have nearly everything you need for all grain now. If you go the cooler mashtun route maybe a $25 investment, if you go the biab route, a $10 investment.

        But all of that will pay for its self very quickly once you are paying 1/2 of the price for your ingredients. If I still pain the prices of extract brewing yet, there is no way I ever still be doing it. Once you go from $30-$40 a batch to $15 -$20 a batch you’ll see the light.

        I dont see how on earth you spent that much money on equipment either, unless your buying for looks rather than preformance. But i guess the “brew to be cool, rather than brewing for results” angle of brewing is becoming more popular nowdays.

        Seriously dude. Saying your saving money by doing extract over all grain is a flat out lie.

      • I don’t mention all-grain in the post, so I suppose I’m not doing any lying at all. It’s just in relation to equipment, because you need more equipment for all-grain than extract, correct? I’m comparing homebrewing to buying beer in a store.

        But yes, you’re absolutely right that all-grain can offer even bigger savings. It’s just that I don’t have the space for all the equipment (to either store or brew) and I enjoy the fact that I can make a good batch of beer in half the time. I’ve wanted to try BIAB, but just haven’t done it yet.

        The $300 I’ve spent on equipment includes a “start-up” kit, as well as a new pot for boiling, turkey fryer for outside use, etc.

        Extract brewing was great for me because it was an easy way to get into the hobby. I’m not trying to do anything fancy, just enjoy the process.

        Appreciate you pointing out the cost effectiveness of all-grain!

      • I’m a gadget whore and obsessed with the science side of brewing, so I’ve bought a ton of stuff I don’t really “need” like a digital pH meter, two kinds of hydrometers, a custom wort chiller, and my fancy homemade mash tun.

        My 7 gallon kettle was probably the single most expensive piece, but I’ve easily got ~$500 invested overall. Seems cheap compared to some other hobbies, plus I can drink the result!

      • Where does one “go the cooler mashtun route for $25?” The cooler itself is more than that. Then you need all the peices. You may also need a new kettle and a propane burner for outdoors, and 2 propane tanks because you can’t have one die on you. I would say all together, going all grain had cost me at least $175, and I got the cheapest alluminum kettle you can get.

      • I think this is where Oliver points out things can get a bit crazy. In addition to the basics, there are lots of upgrades/add-ons to consider, although going the DIY route certainly helps.

        I don’t know if I’ll ever get into all-grain, but it seems like you’ve done OK balancing equipment necessities with pricing.

        Cheers!

  2. Almost every time I put together an order for a recipe I’m adding a new piece of equipment to my “brewhouse”. I’ll make a beer and find a flaw and say “ya know, if I had xyz piece of equipment maybe it would help clean this up some”. And before you know it in addition to buying ingredients I’m buying wort chillers and a yeast starter kits, etc.

    • Ha! It’s most definitely a slippery slope. I was the same way until I ran out of room to store my equipment – I just kept on thinking about all the things I could be using to make the process better or easier.

      The worst part is when I receive monthly catalogs in the mail. I find myself flipping through and mentally marking pages thinking, “Oh, that would be really cool to have someday…”

      Then again, I suppose these things could be said about any hobby!

    • This is my issue too. Every time I’m in Maryland Homebrew I spend a little bit longer drooling over the 50 gallon brew-stands and brewing systems. Thankfully I don’t have the space or the balls to tell my wife I spent ~$1500 on my beer habit.

  3. The $300 is a capital expenditure. The equipment is an asset that has value and provides you with future benefits.

    I think brewing equipment is 7-year property. So, for your accounting purposes you should depreciate that capital expenditure over the course of 7 years (for tax purposes, Roth Brewing Co. would expense it under section 179 for the taxable year it was placed in service). So, for the last 2 years, brewing equipment depreciation expenses (determined using the straight-line method) amount to about $85.71. Then, if you want to extrapolate that over each beer, your depreciation expenses amount to $6.12 for each batch…or about 15 cents per bottle. So, you’re doing even better than you thought!

    • I made the case to my wife and won but she’s caught on by now. Now we happily brew together and ignore the cost per brew 🙂 Great article by the way. Linked to it in our weekly newsletter.

      • Thanks very much! It took my wife some convincing to let me go this route, mostly along the lines of keeping my equipment out of the way and brewing outside.

        She hates the smell of wort, let alone fresh hops, so that’s why brew days usually start early! I can enjoy it all while she sleeps.

        Sometimes, she’ll manage to enjoy the final product.

  4. OK – so I’m obviously doing 2 very important things horribly wrong.

    1. I’m spending roughly $100 per batch not including labels (but I am buying new bottles)

    2. Instead of 4 hours with the equipment I’m closer to 14.

    Thank god I only brew because I’m a loon and someone else guilted or otherwise incented me into it.

    Cheers!

    • Ha!

      I typically use a bottle trough three batches before recycling and if I ever make labels, I’ll print them and attach them myself. Only ever tried that for a few batches, though.

      Even if you’re spending $100 and end up with 45-50 bottles, I feel like the sense of pride and accomplishment outweigh the slight difference in per bottle cost compared to a commercial option.

      What’s the favorite batch you’ve made, anyway? Dare I ask favorite name/label, too?

  5. Pingback: MR | Second Edition, August 2013 | Drunken Speculation

    • Great minds, and all that…

      It sounds like we both had similar thought processes concerning our financial output versus what we would’ve been spending on commercial beers. You definitely raise a good point in your post – I love that I can make a beer that I’ll enjoy, quite possibly even more than the commercial counterpoint.

      Cheers!

  6. Pingback: All Grain v. Partial Mash v. Extract Brewing | threefoldbrewing.com

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