Does Homebrewing Beer Actually Save Money?
In order to produce the podcast and keep content up free for you, I work with partners so this post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info.
It's been about two months since we started our joint hobby of homebrewing beers.
I will say this – it is incredibly fun and a relaxing way to spend an evening most times.
Since we got the equipment kit and some supplies to start off with, we've beenbusy every week making a batch.
So what have we made so far? Glad you asked 🙂
- Chestnut Brown Ale
- Everyday IPA
- American Amber Ale
- Chocolate Maple Porter
- Gluten Free Orange Spiced Belgian Ale
- Traditional Dry Stout
- Smoked Wheat
- Summer Saison
I'm proud of the different styles we've tried out so far.
To get familiar with the brewing process we've been using recipe kits, both the all-grain ones for the smaller 1-gallon batches and the extract kits for the 5-gallon batches.
However, we're looking to move beyond them. At the same time we also want to keep things within our budget, hopefully save some money with our new hobby.
Using Recipe Kits for Beer
Many times when starting off with homebrewing, using a recipe kit makes the learning process a lot easier.
Recipe kits are prepackaged with pretty much all the ingredients you need to make a batch of beer, including malt (perhaps in extract form), hops, and yeast.
The correct amounts are included so you can simply follow the recipe included and be set.
We use a great local brew shop in the area, American Brewmaster, to grab most of our supplies and I've used Brooklyn Brew shop for my one gallon batches.
|Receipe Kit||Cost||Bottles Brewed (12oz)||Cost Per Bottle/6pk|
|American Amber Ale||$33.50||50||$0.67/$4.02|
|Chocolate Maple Porter||$15||10||$1..50/$9.00|
I think you see two things right here:
- The 5 gallon brews are very cost effective, with the prices being much better than what we find at the stores.
- Using the recipe kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop is not the way to save money.
The dilemma is that I find the Brooklyn Brew shop brews to be my favorites in terms of tastes.
The good news is that I've come up with a solution that allows me to enjoy their recipes while keeping my wallet in safe condition.
We'll be moving from buying their recipe kits to using their recipes from their book and gathering the ingredients ourselves.
Now that we've brewed and bottled a few batches I feel confident enough to leave the 1-gallon kits alone.
How much can I save by doing it ourselves? Take the Chocolate Maple Porter – my husband's favorite brew by far. Using the recipe, I priced out the supplies at the local brew shop for a 1 gallon batch.
Saving Money on the One Gallon Homebrews
- 1.2 lbs American 2-row malt ($1.35)
- .3 lb Chocolate malt (87 cents)
- .2 lb Caramel 15 malt (46 cents)
- .2 lb Black Patent malt (87 cents)
- .4 oz Fuggles Hops [hop pellets] ($2.85)
- Nottingham Ale Yeast ($3.98)
That brings the total cost to (drum-roll please) $10.38, which brings the price per bottle down to around $1.38 or $8.28 a six pack.
I already have maple syrup so I'm not including that in my estimates.
For the hops and yeast I can't buy fractional amounts from the shop, so that added to the cost.
If I decided to go ahead make a 5 gallon brew the total would come out to $22.38, which brings the price per bottle down to around $0.45 or $$2.70 a six pack.
The biggest limitation would be that the recipe would be converted to an extract one instead of all grain, so I'm not sure how the flavor would come out.
Perhaps we can it out later this year and I'll share my notes on the batch.
Making Beer at Home
While I believe that you can save money by brewing your own beer, I don't think you should have it as a hobby if that's your sole reason for doing it.
It does take time to brew and bottle your beer, which some people may find annoying. However it's been a fun activity for us to share in as a couple and with friends.
I'd love to hear from you guys. How many of you like to make a homebrewed beer together?
My wife and I homebrew together, for the past 4 years or so… It’s a fun hobby that we can share. As for frugality, sure the cost of beer is cheaper per bottle – but I also include the overhead in equipment. So far, we’ve spend several hundred dollars for our brewery so I can’t say that it’s a cheap hobby. The time spent on brew/bottling day is pretty extensive for us, too. We’re active in our local homebrewers club and support our local homebrew shop over shopping online.
As for supplies, buying hops in bulk will save you quite a bit of money. Notice that most bittering hops can be substituted for whatever you have quantity of. Also, look locally to other brewers who may be interested in sharing bulk purchases of the major grains like 2-row pale malt or maybe even maris otter. You’ll find you can get 50# sacks of grain for far less than you can buy per pound. Growing your own hops is another option, depending on your location’s sunlight availability. Kegging is more efficient than bottling, but again, there is a significant initial purchase in equipment – but once you have it, you use it every batch so eventually recoup your costs.
We love our beers and love sharing them with our friends. I find most of my recipes on places like homebrewtalk or brewtoad and have been happy with the results.
Thanks so much Guidry for sharing your tips on saving more with homebrewing! With an earlier I discussed our personal costs with the homebrew equipment set-up. I love your idea of splitting grain purchases with others homebrewers.
A friend and I recently went to a “homebrew event” where 5 or so guys got together in a garage and taught us how to do it. We ended up making 3 different batches over the course of a day. One was a 10 Gallon all grain on the guys’ big fancy set up (including modified kegs and such) and then an extract 5 gallon batch and a small 5 gallon all grain batch. It was really cool to see the process, and I’m excited to try the end result when we bottle it. Will I do it myself? Not likely. But, my friend and I might go in together and make a couple batches as a hobby sort of thing.
It is nice if you know someone with a extensive set-up. We have a couple friends that have the equipment and we get together and brew. We also like to invite others for bottling parties where we knock a 5 gallon batch and then we taste past brews. It’s fun and for the group it can be a frugal event.
I’v often wondered if it would be cheaper to brew at home vs. buying from the store. We love beer and it would be a relaxing activity during the week, perfect for my fiance and I. Thanks for sharing!
If you want to homebrew without spending a lot of money on equipment, you can grab a one gallon kit from Brooklyn Brew shop or you can go to a local brew supply shop and find some great deals. You can start a brew with your fiancee for less than $40.
I’ve got that Brooklyn Brewing book, and have brewed with many kits from Northern Brewing before. I tried the Edelweiss recipe from Brooklyn Brewing, and it didn’t turn out right. We bottled after 3-4 days of brewing, and didn’t add priming sugar (per the recipe), and it didn’t carbonate or ferment long enough. So that’s the only recipe I’ve tried, but perhaps avoid the Edelweiss until you’ve done more from the book and have a good idea how it would work out. I’m eager to try more from the book… but that was a poor one to start out with.
If you’re looking for another batch, the chocolate maple porter and the everyday IPA are easy recipes.
Great post! My husband started home brewing a couple years ago and he loves it. He enjoys super-bitter IPA so the savings aren’t as significant as they would be if he was more of a lager fan. 🙂 We spend a lot on hops — he orders from Freshops out of Oregon — but we’ve started growing our own hops to offset the cost (plus they’re so cool!). He started with extracts but quickly moved onto all-grain. Since we live in the Napa Valley of Craft Beer, there are a couple home brew supply shops to choose from. We reuse bottles and buy base malt in bulk for additional savings.
I had a friend that did this! My problem is I love IPAs….
My experience has been similar. I find that I can save on most of my 5 gallon batches unless I make a super strong IPA. The hops drive the price up fast.
We found that out when we made a double IPA. Some hops are pricier than others.
You can save by using higher IBU hops to use fewer ounces than lower IBU. One ounce of simcoe has as much flavor as multiple of cascade or others.
Thanks for the tip Eric. We’re actually growing some hops this year including cascade. Hopefully we’ll not only save some money, but we’ll have some tastier beer 😀