≡ Menu

Home Economics: Beer Brewing

This guest post from Trey in New Mexico goes with the theme of the week: living thrifty does not equate to joyless living.  The Thrifty are not an unhappy, deprived people.  They simply know how to weigh their wants against their really-wants and are able to set the former aside.  Read how Trey was able to turn a passion into a hobby, and a hobby into a way to save some cash.    




Before we get started, there are a few things I need to clear up.  First, let’s just say that brewing beer is not so much of a hobby as it is a passion for me.  It produces something that I really enjoy.  Next, this article serves as a sort of justification to the world (my wife) for allowing me to continue this passion and potentially one day use “grocery money” to support it. 


With that out of the way, let me continue by confessing that:

  1. I am thrifty (some say cheap).
  2. I am meticulous.  I am also anal (and now this blog is being read by a whole new demographic that were attempting to search that word on their favorite search engine and now find themselves here).  Welcome perverts! – RR
  3. Last but certainly not least, I love beer.  I love all kinds of beer.  I love IPAs, Porters, Stouts, Amber Ales, Pale Ales, Pilsners, Bocks, Browns, Bitters, Lambics, Barley Wines, Lights, Darks, Lagers, Ales, Imports, Micros, Domestics, Malts, or Hops.  I love beer from 3.2% by weight to 21% by Volume.  I buy bottles that range from $20 for one 750ml bottle to 1.25 Euros for 24 cans (while on business in Spain).

All of these facts combine together and bring us to the crux of this article, the financial feasablily of homebrewing vs. “consuming”.



The Obsession Begins…


My love for beer began to blossom in Northern California’s Sonoma Valley.  I began to find out that there was more to beer than just consuming it upside down while a friend holds your feet.  There were other things about beer to enjoy other than just how it goes down so smooth when ingested through two straws on either side of a helmet (although that has its place too).  At this time, I was also embarking on two-week business trips sometimes at a rate of 2 per month.  Let’s face it, I was gone 250 days the first year on the job and it made having a hobby difficult.  This is when I decided to marry my love of beer with my need for a hobby. 


A friend told me that it was simple.  You just put some syrup with some water into a bucket and two weeks to a month later you have beer.  You don’t have to do a thing once you’ve started.  I thought this seemed simple given my schedule.  Fast-forward 5 years, one less income in the family, and 4 kids later and this brings us to the financial appreciation of homebrewing. 



Financial Necessity


Thanks to the kids, some property that I own that I wish I didn’t, and all of the other things that take money, I don’t exactly have the cash to buy the beer I’ve grown to love.  Not to mention, now I also live in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico.  This means that to get the selection of beer I want, I either drive 3 hours to Albuquerque for a “decent” selection or 9 hours to Colorado Springs for a great one.  This doesn’t help the pocket book that much and I really don’t have that kind of time.



Working the Numbers


Since this is a financial blog, let me throw some numbers out there (now’s a time for a good disclaimer, don’t judge me; if you’re from work, I drink 1-2 beers per week socially amongst friends.

Fancy beers consumed per week: 7

Average Cost of fancy beer per bottle: $2.00

Total spent on beer per year: $730.00


So, we need to produce 365 beers per year in order to compare.  A 5 gallon batch of brew yields approximately 48 bottles.  This means we will need to brew 7.6 (we’ll call it 8) kits to cover enough beer for the year.


I do most of my shopping at Midwest Homebrewing and Winemaking Supplies because I like their ingredients, prices, and just about everything I’ve made from there has turned out great.  Assuming we just get what I think are the basics to start and don’t get too carried away (for another article), here are the costs:



Now, you are either thinking that I’m an alcoholic who is totally justifying his habit, or you’re thinking that these kind of savings don’t sound too bad.  In just a month or two you could be the most popular garage bar on the block, people will laugh at your jokes, your wife might think you’re better looking, and you could end up with 4 kids (having a personal epiphany here).  Either way, you won’t have to spend $700/year (not including the 18 hour round-trip to my in-laws to buy the good stuff) just to support something you like.



Let this Ferment


So what have we proved here?  What I’ve shown you here does not take into account the cost of your time, the fact that once you get sucked into this you’ll want to start kegging your brew (nice double tap system for $205.95 works well), upgrading your equipment, or even drinking more (because your buds and your wife are consuming all of the good stuff). 


The point is, this is still considered a hobby and not a profession (that happens when I retire).  It just so happens to be a hobby that in the long run could save you some money.  Even if the brew bug does bite you, you might just save enough money to offset your new expenses.  Now doesn’t that just sound “Richly Reasonable”?


Photo Credits: apol3, david, laffy4k

Article publié pour la première fois le 03/09/2010