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What are the economics behind home brewing? I mean compared to buying "X" commercial brand beer and setting aside the "hobby" added value that this may have? Please help!

Regards!

F.

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    I'm not sure what you are asking. Can you make the question more specific? – mdma Mar 23 '14 at 19:31
  • Very hard question to answer, because it depends on..... Well everything. Even your utilities and environmental conditions can be major factors. I find that at the 5 Gallon size all grain batch, the const of ingredients is generally about half the cost of the brewed quantity. The rest of the cost is dictated by your process, other extraneous factors and don't forget about all the capital costs which go into your brewery. As a general rule. I wouldn't expect to save money. – mreff555 Apr 20 at 19:19

10 Answers 10

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Because I am such a sad individual I wrote a rather elaborate spreadsheet to document my spendings, because I was bored and I like to tinker. in my defence I use it a bit like a diary.

I'm not a heavy brewer (yet) and I am relatively new, but here are my figures.
!SAD ACT ALERT!
I have brewed a total of 94 liters (25 gallons) of homebrew (inc beers/ciders/wine)
If I was to buy that in an approximate commercial product It would have cost me £338 ($558)
The cost in consumables has been £82 ($135)
That is a saving of £255 ($420)
subtract the equipment cost £247 ($407)

I have saved £8 ($13)...
These figures are really tight as it can get (the spread sheet even calculates the cost of yeast per teaspoon and cost of priming sugar AH ha ha! seriously!)

It should be noted that this saving of £8 ($13) signifies that I have just recently crossed over the threshold of where my savings have now matched the start up cost of my equipment.

So it is just saving from here onwards!!!!

but I fully agree that it is all about the hobby, which also slightly explains, why I made the over top spreadsheet... just coz i can! :)

below is overview table from the spreadsheet.

enter image description here

The brews that run at a lost was coz I had to throw them down the drain and I wouldn't have paid for a commercial version.

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    Should be noted that the above is extract or sugar and fruit/flowers style brewing. I will be moving to all-grain in a few months. – Another Compiler Error Mar 26 '14 at 14:19
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    I did a similar calculation, so I hope this act was not too 'sad'. Curious people are the most awesome. Mine didn't get too detailed...just total expense after 2 years brewing on my own equipment (inexpensive all grain equipment plus ingredients, obviously no labor charges, hehe). I converted my total production volume into the number of 22 oz 'bomber bottles' that would have made. It came out to about 75% of what I would have paid at the store. I'm sure it's better than that now (more time to amortize the equipment and a 'free' bag of grain). – Dale Mar 28 '14 at 15:57
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    Do you account for inventory that you have already paid for but have not used? Often times recipes (particularly food) will boast a low price but a newbie is unable to make if for that price because you can not buy ingredients in single use quantities. – rbreier Oct 3 '16 at 16:31
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If you mean "is it less expensive to brew your own beer", I'd say not usually, although it will depend to some extent on where you live and the price of beer there. Sure, you can make very low cost beers that may end up less expensive, but they may not be the beer you want to drink. There are ways to cut costs by buying ingredients in bulk, or reusing your yeast for several batches. But in general, you shouldn't think of homebrewing as a way to save money any more than you should think of buying a fishing boat as a way to save money on food.

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    +1 for the boating/fishing analogy. That's always how I describe it to people. – Graham Mar 24 '14 at 12:32
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In Canada, where I live, beer, wine and spirits are heavily taxed. Good craft beer costs between $6 and $9 per liter. My homebrewed beer costs around $1 per liter in ingredients. (I buy malt and hops in bulk, and I reuse yeast across a number of batches.) Suppose I go through 200 liters in a year, that's a savings of at least $1,000. Of course, I've spent some money on equipment, but that cost can be amortized across its useful lifetime, which is many years.

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    Wow. I'm sympathetic towards your misfortune... – Scott Mar 22 '14 at 19:34
  • It's similar in Norway. A good beer will cost you 50-75kr, or about $10-15 USD per bottle here. Also local pubs sell a pint of beer for the same price. – mdma Mar 23 '14 at 19:32
  • Here in Australia prices are pretty steep too, at a bar, it's not crazy to spend 12-15 dollars on a pint, and in a bottle shop, you could be looking at 15/L for middle range craft beers if you buy in six packs. For me, brewing the beers I want to drink is waay cheaper. – Frazbro Apr 22 at 2:22
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Going to add another Canadian response to complement Tobias'.

Here, even cheap bear is expensive. The lowest legal price beer can be sold for here (Ontario) is $29.35 per 24 standard longneck bottles. That is where the very bottom-of-the-barrel cheap beers site. Think Lucky Lager, Lakeport (Lakewater) etc. This is $1.22 per bottle.

If you want a 'premium' beer like Coors Light, you are looking at ~$1.50. Last time I bought Coors Light (hey - sometimes you need a generic inoffensive beer to bring somewhere), it cost $36 for 24 bottles before tax.

Decent craft beer runs between $1.75-$3 per bottle. Some are even higher.

Right now, I can make a batch of decent extract beer for ~$30-$40, depending on how much I spend on ingredients. This makes ~55 bottles, so anywhere from $0.54-$0.77 / bottle depending on the recipe. And I would rate this in the same ballpark quality-wise as the craft beers available, at least to my tastes.

So, to summarize, I can make beer that is to me as good as many of the available craft beer for less than half the cost of the cheapest beer available for sale.

This means that I save $20-$30 per batch I brew, even compared to the cheapest beer I can buy. It doesn't take long to recoup the initial investment in equipment at that rate.

  • How much is rum and coke at an average bar or spirit and mixer? – Another Compiler Error Mar 26 '14 at 14:14
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    It's been a long time since I ordered a mixed drink, and it highly depends on the establishment you are visiting. I would hazard a guess that it's generally between $4-$7 for a shot of rail liquor, again, depending where you are. – BrianV Mar 26 '14 at 15:50
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    Sometimes we get £1 parties over here, any drink... £1. – Another Compiler Error Mar 26 '14 at 22:10
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Where I live in the US, I'd say a typical home-brewed beer still costs about 60% [in ingredients alone] of what it would cost to just buy the beer. It can easily cost less than that to brew, but it can easily cost much more than buying beer, as well, if you really want to get crafty or make something good/special.

On the other hand, you didn't say you were brewing ale or malt liquor specifically, so consider that you can make alcohol-containing beverages with just yeast, water, and sugar. Those three ingredients can be acquired quite cheaply or even for free sometimes.

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    are you brewing with malt or extract? – mdma Mar 23 '14 at 20:33
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    Thus far my beers have all been from LME, I see your post mentioning that using grain can be cheaper. That's quite interesting.I could imagine being interested in doing that with rice someday, but right now I'm more into Cidre and fruity drinks. I dabble in beer too but I really appreciate how much easier it is with a pre-hopped liquid malt extract. – Chaz Wright Mar 24 '14 at 2:10
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Well, homebrewing has not been cheap for me. I spent well in excess of $5000 on my brewery and probably the same again in kegs and other equipment. But I have a room where I can brew comfortably, and have the equipment to serve it so it's at it's best. I enjoy for the most part the beer that I make. I still drink bottled beers, and often find I prefer my own brew.

For me, homebrewing was never about saving cash, but for being able to brew interesting and enjoyable beer.

But if you are just looking to make a drinkable session beer, a batch of beer can be impressively inexpensive and quick turn around when brewing all grain, and much less expensive than brewing with extract. At a guess, I can probably brew 20 liters of beer for less than $20.

  • Did you purchase a lot of items pre-assembled and built or did you build and DIY you equipment items. With $5K (nice!) whats your brewing capacity? – Another Compiler Error Mar 26 '14 at 14:16
  • I built a clone plus extras of the electric brewery. See my avatar. A large part of the cost was shipping from the US to Norway. – mdma Mar 26 '14 at 18:08
  • That is nice, I planning on building something very similar. But first I'm making baby steps, see if this hobby is for life or just a phase. – Another Compiler Error Mar 26 '14 at 22:05
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So far, all I buy are the prepackaged extract kits and I am very happy with them (and so are my lucky friends).

not including the equipment, the boxed ingredients cost me between $25-$35 depending on the recipe and so far, my favorites are the ones hovering around $25.

I net about 2 cases from this. That;s about 6.25 to 8.75 a 12-pack for beer that tastes better to me than comperably beers. In the stores, lower quality beers go for $12-$15 for a 12-pak.

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For me, I usually disregard economics when I am homebrewing. How come?

Well, most of the homebrew beers I make are clones of styles that I cannot get in Oregon. For example, New Glarus Spotted Cow. Since I cannot get these brews where I live, the cost of making them is nil (or even more expensive since I would have to drive to the location to pick up the beer).

Just wanted to throw that thought into the mix.

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On my system (which I admit is non-traditional and only uses one vessel) after purchasing all the equipment and everything ($250 new), I calculated that after 10 batches, my cost per six pack is $6.00. Compare that with any commercial or craft beer at the supermarket and it's close. And the cost of homebrewing goes drastically down from there, reaching $3.78/six pack after 40 batches. I'm assuming an average cost of $25 per batch of beer, producing 50 beers per batch.

The economics of homebrewing was why I got into the hobby in the first place.

details at my blog: https://onepotbrewing.com/2016/09/29/how-much-does-brewing-cost-over-time-on-infographic-whiteboard/

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What are the economics behind home brewing? I mean compared to buying "X" commercial brand beer and setting aside the "hobby" added value that this may have?

Business Insider and USAToday list "Bud Light", "Coors" and "Budweiser" as the top three 'commercial brand beers', while sites such as YouGov offer a different opinion.

Part of the reason they are the top three is marketing and price, still making an exact copy isn't easy and cheap but there is some small savings to be had.

It's a better use of time and resources to make a better beer.

If you are interested in Craft beer then there's a list (derived from a list of 9116 companies, with only 77 described as "large") at the Brewers Association of the fastest growing breweries.

Some ingredients for some craft beers are available in a kit or at the back of the brew pub, that permits you to try making the same beer at home.

Brewer's Friend has a half dozen recipes for a "Bud Light", "Coors Light", and "Budweiser" style beer, but you probably won't exactly match the original.

With Brew on Premise you can get 48 bottles (20 L) worth of beer for U$120 (bottles and labels extra) or 5-7 cases (of 24) from a 50 L brew for U$210 (U$210 / 144 = $1.46 a bottle). (Source: TCoB).

Some places have the ingredients for over 100 different recipes, brewing classes and clubs, and experts on site to help you. Some places have a bar where you can sample different beers and choose what you want to brew.

Some allow you to do part of the process on site and finish at home.

All of that leads to more certainty of a great result (most offer a 100% guarantee) and you can buy your equipment from people whom you get to know and trust, and are willing to offer tech support should you have a question come up.

If you go out and spend a lot to get good equipment it can take a while to break even. See our question: What equipment do I need to buy to start making beer? ,- there's a lot to buy and sell lot to know. It makes sense to have help the first few times and doing it at a BoP saves all the mess and cleanup. A few hours time and come back later to bottle, what could be easier is certainly more expensive.

Brewer's Friend offers this graphic showing the cost breakdown for commercial beer:

Cost Breakdown

As you can see you pay a lot for tax and marketing, neither of which provides you with better or more beer. Brewing on premise instead of your home saves a lot of work and worry, if you factor in the value of your time and space in your home (not to mention proper equipment, tested recipes (that you've taste tested) and expert advice) that can make the difference in cost more manageable.

Considering that you can make over 100 liters at a time for greater savings that gives you more room for extra fridges instead of space for large vats that aren't always full.

Actually doing everything in your own home is an act of love and devotion; easier to do once you are familiar with the process and have a few brews under your belt, and a brewing lesson or two. It's also easy to switch styles without buying new equipment, and make some wine on occasion, if you're using someone else's equipment.

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