Note: The following is not based on kitting with ingredient packets. Based on a 5 gallon extract (2 boxes) or all grain batch using standard equipment and average ingredient prices.
Since I started brewing more than 10 years ago, I’ve noticed that the hobby has grown in popularity, especially as commercial beer prices rise and beer lovers who are also hobbyists or DIYers begin to Consider saving a bit of money by brewing your own beer. Can you really brew beer for less than it costs to buy it? Well, if you drink craft beers, imported beers, or anything else other than mass-marketed light lagers, then yes, you can brew your own for less.
A 30-pack of certain pale lagers costs around $15. You can’t brew your own beer for as little as that, but technically, if a homebrewer made a basic batch of pale ale using about 6.6 lbs. of DME or LME (Liquid or Dry Malt Extract), 2 ounces of hops, and a packet of dry yeast, two cases can be made for about $32.50.
To calculate that estimate, I used the current price of Muntons light malt extract (3 or 3.3 pounds at about $11.50 or $11.99 respectively), Cascade hops ($2.99 per ounce), and Coopers brewer’s yeast ( $2.50 per package), and I rounded . Prices can vary by 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 gear and extras, the ingredients are really the only expense to worry about. Any specialty grains, extra hops, or liquid yeast will add to the cost, and don’t forget shipping or gas costs. 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 basic recipe above, you’re looking at a cost of about $16.25 per case for homebrew, compared to anywhere from $27 to $30 (or more) per case for the commercial good stuff. So by brewing your own beer, you could save up to $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 grain-only brewing and you can save more, as bulk grains cost much less than brewed extracts. For example, 1 lb. of 2-row pale barley malt, suitable for a one-step mash, can cost as little as $1.90 per pound, compared to $3.99 per pound. for DME, so an all-grain version of the basic recipe above could save you an additional $3.50 or so per box.
The exchange? In reality, you will have to work for it and practice patience. Homebrewing isn’t for everyone, and it’s not always a walk in the park, but the reward is pouring yourself a refreshing beer that you brewed yourself and having your friends rave about how much better your beers are than store-bought stuff. the store.
Is it worth paying the extra $13 or $16 for the convenience of going to the local liquor store and buying a six-pack of your favorite tried-and-true beer? Nothing will stop us beer lovers from buying our beloved craft beers, but we can enjoy a nice relaxing and rewarding pastime and save a few bucks in the process.