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I would like to create a recipe (or recipes) that is fairly cheap and will serve as a session beer that I can drink when I just want a beer in the evening, and I'm not particularly choosy about what it is. I'm not looking to be more economical than Keystone Light, but hops and specialty grains can get expensive.

Which are the cheaper sessionable styles to brew? (sessionable to me means between about 4.5% and 5.5% abv, and easy on the palate)

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Are you brewing all-grain, extract, or partial? –  Nathan Oct 14 '11 at 4:38
    
Sorry, I should have mentioned that. all-grain. –  Dustin Rasener Oct 14 '11 at 11:06
    
Would this question be better as a community wiki? –  Dustin Rasener Oct 14 '11 at 16:31
    
+1 Good question. I have had similar thoughts. –  Poshpaws Dec 4 '11 at 19:07
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Ordinary Bitter, Mild, Dry Stout, Irish Red. These styles are generally lower OG and use little hops. The ABVs are generally under 5.5%. And these four styles all use the same base malt. Therefore you can maximize your savings purchasing a full sack of base malt. After that you can just get specialty malts as needed; and these styles provide a good variety.

You can also get away with the same english yeast strain for these too. So if you plan to brew regularly enough you can harvest yeast from one batch for the next saving yet another $6-$8/batch.

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With the English styles, I'd be tempted to use Marris Otter, which is almost double the price of Rahr 2-row at my LHBS. Would you use Rahr 2-row in these styles? Do you think I'd notice a difference? –  Dustin Rasener Oct 14 '11 at 16:42
    
Some people will disagree with me, but there are domestic Pale Ale malts that are nice with some English character. One of the best Ordinary bitters I have made was with simple Breiss domestic two row, and a little extra biscuit/victory malt added to make it more marris otter like. Keep in mind too though that ordering in bulk is often best done online for the best price deals. That said there is no reason not to brew American styles in the session gravity range. And American Pub bitter, stout or red ale can be just as nice. –  brewchez Oct 14 '11 at 17:48
    
+1 as an englishman, I enjoy brewing these styles a lot, and they don't need much of hops or malt yet are still an enjoyable drop. –  mdma Feb 12 '12 at 2:08
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Your best bets are going to be try checking out some of the homebrewing websites and browse for beer kits, and list them in descending order for price. Find something you like, and roll with it. Clones tend to be more expensive... be on your guard.

If you want to be a bit more creatives you can save a TON of money by buying in bulk. Your biggest money savings would be from buying a huge bag of DME, and then just buying specialty grains for whatever particular recipe you want to make.

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Good answer for extract brewers. –  brewchez Oct 14 '11 at 13:35
    
it can also be worthwhile to see what your LHBS can sell you at bulk or at discount –  STW Oct 19 '11 at 4:55
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I'd look into buying some brewing software and "Brewing Classic Styles". You can use the recipes in the book for baseline "known good" recipes, and use the brewing software to play around with values and substitute grains to make your own recipes. The book will also give you breakdowns of the various styles, so you can see which ones fit your tastes and ABV requirements.

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