For beer lovers, this may be a golden age for American craft beer. Just 30 years ago, there were only 44 breweries in operation in the USA, producing nearly 200 million barrels of beer per year. The number of barrels produced hasn’t increased much in 2012… but the number of breweries has skyrocketed to 1,600! “What does this have to do with TalkingCents?” asks the attractive and intelligent blog-reader. Well, the reason that production hasn’t risen by much is that the majority of those 1,556 new breweries are small, independent craft breweries. A lot of these operations started as homebrewing hobbies in someone’s kitchen or garage. I’m not saying you’ll become the next Jim Koch (founder of Samuel Adams Brewery), but you could save some money on beer.
Craft beer is booming in popularity, but it is also booming in price. For example, compare…
- Budweiser, 6-pack cans: $6.00-$7.00
- Magic Hat #9, 6-pack bottles: $9.50-$10.50
A huge subculture of home-brewers has developed over the last 15 years or so. Not breweries, just regular folks who love beer and want to brew their own. It’s not only an interesting process, but it gives you the freedom to brew according to your own taste while being able to control costs.
Many home-brewers got started with something like a Mr. Beer Kit. It has everything you need to make small batches of simple ales in your kitchen. Kits start at $39.99, but you can add additional equipment and accessories. It includes ingredients for your first batch, and additional ingredients/recipes range from $15.00 to $50.00 and produce 2 gallons of beer. If nothing else, it’s a simple and inexpensive kit that will give you an idea of whether you like brewing or not.
I actually received a Mr. Beer kit as a gift, which I am very excited about, but I haven’t tried it out yet. A friend of mine told me that if you can make soup, you can make beer. Maybe I should try to make soup first.
For those who want even more control, more elaborate recipes, and larger quantities, advanced equipment can be purchased at sites like MoreBeer.com and NorthernBrewer.com. Kits like theirs start at $70.00-$80.00. Recipes/ingredients are purchased separately, and are priced similar to those from Mr. Beer ($20.00 to $50.00) but these produce 5 gallons of beer.
So let’s compare home-brewed and store prices…
Let’s say you start with a Mr. Beer Kit: $39.99
And you buy an additional recipe for their Summer Solstice Stout: $18.88 (plus $7.95 shipping) = $26.83
- That’s $66.82 for 4 gallons of beer (2 recipes)
- 4 gallons = 42 twelve ounce servings
*****$1.59 per serving*****
(Everyone puts a certain value on their time. It’s up to you to determine whether you enjoy the hobby and believe it’s worth the effort, or you think you’re better off just buying something from the professionals. There’s no wrong answer.)
What Would That Cost at the Store?
Let’s stick with the example we used at the beginning… Magic Hat #9
- 12-pack bottles = $16.00 (times 3) = $48.00
- Plus one 6-pack = $9.50
- Total = $57.50 (42 servings)
STORE BOUGHT CRAFT BEER
*****$1.37 per serving*****
So you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s cheaper to just buy beer at the store! And they can probably make it way better than I could anyway! Why am I yelling!” That may be true, but don’t forget that the homebrew total includes the start-up costs for the equipment. Each time you brew a batch of beer, you’re chipping away at that start-up cost. You’re basically spreading the cost of the kit over each batch you make. So it gets cheaper each time. Get it?
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