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Home Brewing… Is it worth it?

Once people find out that I brew my own beer the first questions they ask are “do you really save money brewing your own beer?” and  “Is it worth it?”.  Although my process and strategy have evolved over time, the answer it is always pretty much the same. And that is “yes and no”. Yes…you can save a pile of money brewing your own beer and yes…it is very rewarding creating a tasty beverage from grains and hops. On the other hand, if you are like me you have a tendency to take things to the extremes. For example,  you might spend all the money you would have otherwise saved on things like constructing your own (or purchasing)a new brew rig, kegerators, and fermentation chambers. Oh, and if you were thinking about including an hourly wage into your calculation, don’t. You will find that it is definitely a labor of love.  Brewing takes a lot of time, and some beer types take much longer than others.  Not to mention, you will find that there is A LOT of cleaning time.

If you are a beer enthusiast and you enjoy craft beer, then you should have the experience of making your own beer at least once.  Extract brewing can be very inexpensive and requires very little equipment.  And it is a good method to measure your enthusiasm for the process.  If you are like me and tap into your inner mad scientist (read beer geek), then it may make sense for you to try your hand at home brewing. For those more concerned with their budget, here’s how it breaks down:

For extract brewing, you can buy all your ingredients from your local home brew store or from an internet supplier like Northern Brewer or Morebeer. You can pick up an extract kit for about $35 (depending on the type of beer) and has everything you need to make 5 gallons of tasty beer.  Doing the math that translates into about 40 pints. That comes to about $0.90 per pint. If you are buying a good craft beer at a bar you are likely paying at least $5 a pint and probably more. A good 22 oz. craft beer at the market is going to cost you $8 to $10 and a 6 pack of 12 oz. bottles is going to run you about $10 to $12.

In short, 5 gallons worth of homebrew costs you about $35. 5 gallons worth of store bought craft beer will cost you about $100 and 5 gallons worth of pints in the pub will cost you about $200. So, yes it can save you some money if all you drink is your homebrew from now on. But, we all know that is not a reality. Your tastes will evolve and you’ll be introduced to new beers and then you’ll try to clone them and then you will do it all over again. The bottom line is, if you want to start brewing beer do it because you love beer and not because you think it will save you some dough. You will find it to be a highly rewarding hobby and will likely meet a bunch of great people in the process.

Also- just to point out the obvious, you’ve probably noticed I did not include the cost of equipment in this analysis. I did that on purpose primary because it pays for itself after just a couple batches. I also, did not include the time commitment in any calculations. We all have different lives and value our time differently. As I stated earlier, brewing beer takes time and a lot of patience. And did I mention a lot of patience?

I hope you enjoyed my little cost/benefit analysis. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Brewing!

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11 Responses to Home Brewing… Is it worth it?

  1. So true, a labor of love. Also true that there are a bunch of great folks to meet. I would not trade it for any other hobby I can think of.

    Cheers

    Lloyd

  2. I was just reviewing my spending trends recently and noticed that I spent close to 1k per year over the last several years. I average about 60 gal / year in brewing volume. So, with the $100 / 5 gal commercial comparison (I have found that to be pretty accurate albeit a little high if you buy by the sixtel), then I am barely ahead. I’m actually surprised by that as I thought I was really behind. Now, 3 years ago when I was unemployed, I spent much less and brewed much more. So, it’s possible, but not at all what motivates me. Is it cheaper to hunt than go to the grocery store? RDWHAHB.

    • Hey John- Thanks for the input. It’s always great to meet somebody else that brews for the love of brewing. mashing it out. and of course…RDWHAHB!
      Cheers!

  3. Nice write up. I hear you about the “how much money do you save?”. Many people don’t appreciate craft beer either. I love to homebrew. I wish i had more time to do so.

    Cheers

    Kevin

    • Thanks Kevin. It’s such an awesome hobby. As you can see it is very easy to get carried away. Hope you are able to find more time to brew.

      Clay

  4. Just starting out in the home brewing world after way too man years of drinking craft beer without knowing how it was made. I can’t wait to be able to appreciate craft beer not just for the flavor, but also for the accomplishment factor. My 2-stage kit ran me around $110 from my LHBS. Brewing an IPA first and an Irish oatmeal stout second. Both are kits so the process should be fairly beginner-friendly. At what point did you start noticing limitations in your start up equipment for brewing other more complex beer styles?

    • Thanks for stopping by. I’m not sure exactly when I started noticing any limitations with my equipment. Once I decided to make the jump from extract brewing to all grain I knew I had to make some changes in equipment. After that it just kinda spiraled out of control. As long you are doing extract brews your equipment should work just fine with minor upgrades here and there. Once you decide you want to start brewing all grain you will need to make a few purchases. Specifically, a larger brew kettle, a propane burner, and a mash-tun which can all be purchased relatively cheap. Fermentation is a different story. When you start to move into beers that have very specific fermentation requirements then you will need to get some temperature control. This is VERY important when you are trying to get to that next level. Little hiccups throughout the brewing process can be overcome. But, there is very little room for error in your fermentation. My advise would be to stick with your start up equipment as long as you can and focus on acquiring a fermentation chamber (dorm fridge with temp control). This will make the biggest difference in you beer quality.

      Hope this helps. Keep me posted on your progress.

      Happy Brewing!
      Clay

  5. Thanks for your response, Clay! All-Grain sounds fascinating, and I look forward to the switch one day. As of now I’m having issues with my first brew. I guess the yeast wasn’t very fond of the temperature of my wort when they were introduced. Went back to my LHBS got more yeast and put it into my primary fermenter. A couple of hours later the airlock was very active so I knew the yeast was working and doing its thing. That was yesterday. I just checked on it and the airlock is back to popping once a minute. Not sure what went wrong now :-/

  6. It is like with everything you like to do. It is not about the money. It is about doing what you love to do.
    Some people would call it a hobby, but this is more.
    People buy expensive boats to fish while they can go to the store to buy fish as ab example.
    Beer brewing is the same.
    Great post.
    I noticed I still got a lot to learn.
    Eddie

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