A lot of time you will hear proponents of home brewing talking about how it’s less expensive to brew your own alcohol products. Is this really true? Today I set out to find that out. The answer isn’t just as simple as calculating costs. As with everything else that requires effort, the answer is complicated.
Up front costs
Like other hobbies in which you are creating something for yourself, the costs usually lie in buying stuff up front. It’s no different with home brewing. To get started in home brewing, the equipment alone will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 to start.
That’s just the equipment. Then you have to consider the ingredients. Depending on what level of home brewing you are currently at, the costs will differ. For instance, the more stuff you start doing on your own, the less expensive it will be. Another factor is how much materials you buy up front. If you buy in bulk, the costs come down.
At the most basic level, you have extract or juice brewing. This is basically just having a company do the work of extracting the primary fermentable sugar for you. You then take that sugar and use it for your brew. For beer, this comes in the form of malt extract. For wine, you can buy juice extracted from specialty grapes. This is the most expensive form of home brewing, and the easiest. Although expensive, it’s still slightly less than going out and buying beer or wine that is already prepared.
Once you move up in difficulty to all grain brewing, or crushing your own grapes, the cost comes down a bit. You’ll have to balance that with the fact that you have to do more work to get the final product.
Here’s where it gets tricky to determine how much home brewing costs. It’s going to take you a certain amount of time to finish a project like brewing a batch of beer. How much is your time worth?
For most, home brewing is a labor of love, so they would be doing it anyway. That being said, it still has to be mentioned because it’s absolutely part of the equation.
Besides the hours worked on a project, you have to also consider the time it takes to read how to become proficient in the skill, how to set up all the brewing equipment, and failed projects.
A big headache for home brewers are projects that go bad. This really sucks because you not only wasted the amount of money buying the ingredients, but also wasted a ton of time making something only for it to go bad. Usually this occurs down the line when you only made one little mistake and find out that your beer isn’t carbonated correctly leading to bad tasting beer. So not only is a day wasted making the stuff, but potential months of anticipation gone.
Understand this going in and you’ll have a much better time when it does happen. It happens to everyone, so the best thing you can do is just use it as a learning experience and try to figure out how to avoid it in the future. The more you brew, the better you’ll become.
The alternative here is to just go out and buy alcohol. I used to work in a beer store and I have a fair degree of expertise here, enough to say that buying alcohol is certainly not a cop out. There are some really great products out there in this day and age and it’s worth it to try everything to see what you like.
The problem with buying alcohol is that there are a number of factors that impact costs. Some of these factors are brand exclusivity, rarity of product, and age.
For instance, some of these craft brands out there are no doubt really good products, but a lot of their cost comes from the fact that they are marketing their product as a premium item. You could absolutely create a similar product in quality for a fraction of the price. There’s also the cost of marketing, professional brewers, packaging, and shipping to think of in the final price of your beer that you buy at the store. If you make your own, you cut out all of that.
The product you are buying could also be driven up in costs by the fact that it’s a rare item. For instance, Troegs Mad Elf is an extremely popular limited release beer that is exceptional. It’s also very expensive. You could make a comparable product for yourself that cuts out the rarity aspect.
Finally, age comes into play with some alcohol products. Some people like to buy and trade aged beers or wines. If you make your own, you always have the option of saving an amount of it for years and recreating that aged alcohol magic.
A Case of craft beer’s average price is around $35.
A good bottle of wine is anywhere from $15-$20.
Your own product
How can you put a price on the feeling of accomplishment of self reliance? For some people, it’s priceless. That feeling you get when you have a fridge filled with your own beer or mead connected to your own kegs. It’s a beautiful thing.
Popping open one of your own home brew creations has a certain appeal that is greater than just drinking something you bought at the store.
Building skills for the apocalypse
At the very least, if society crumbles and we go back to a more intense living situation in which you are forced to fend for yourself, you’ll be able to get in the good graces of the nearest warlord by showing off your brewing capabilities.
Once you gain the ability to brew, you can then parlay this into a number of different avenues. You could potentially get a job as a brewer, or at the very least work for breweries in some capacity in the sales department with your encyclopedic knowledge of alcohol.
I’m not sure you can put a price on marketable skills like that.
Home brewing is in fact less expensive than just going to your local distributor and buying some alcohol, but there’s a catch. That catch is you must be willing to learn and put in the work required to actually create that alcohol.
Yes, it’s easier to just go out and buy a case. I have done it many times. However, you will always enjoy a home brew more than a store bought brand because of the elbow grease required to create it.
Interested in starting home brewing? Get a kit here and start today.
Check me out on Twitter