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If you like saving money, if you don't have any money, or you're just on a tight budget, then this article is for you. We're on the hunt for the best cheap beer and we think we found it. To do so we've documented how much it costs to make beer at home in comparison to how much it costs to buy beer at the store. Obviously the price of beer at stores varies quite a bit. Craft IPAs tend to be relatively expensive and commercial beer like Coors Lite, Miller Lite, PBR, and Bud Lite tend to be very lost cost, in comparison. Also, the term "best" is quite subjective. Well, what if we told you that regardless of your preference we've discovered that it's possible to save a ton of money on beer? That's right, we've mapped out the best cheap beer in every single category. The only hitch is that you'll need to make it yourself.
Homebrewing is often viewed as a hobby that people do only for fun, not to save money. At first glance, buying our starter system is much more expensive than a 6 pack of craft beer. However, something to take into consideration is how many of those crafty 6 packs you buy in one year.
The Cost of Brewing Equipment
To get started brewing beer at home, you'll need some equipment. But depending on which method of brewing you use, the cost of equipment will vary.
You'll also need to package and carbonate your beer once it's done. The easiest and most cost effective way to do this is by bottling it. A handful of bottles and a bottle capper will run somewhere around $50, but you can actually re-use non screw top bottles from store bought beer if you want save even more. Just make sure to clean the bottles well and to sanitize them before filling.
Now, as I mentioned, the equipment listed above is for making extract beer, which I think is good, but not GREAT. To step up your game and make something akin to beer you'd get from a store you'll need to use actual grain. Making all grain beer or even partial mash batches of beer requires some more specialized equipment such as our starter brewing system, which includes a mesh basket that allows for easy separation of grain and water at the end of the brewing process. This is going to increase the initial investment by about $400.
Overall Equipment Cost
This is just a basic list of equipment and things can easily snowball from here, but as you can see, you can get started brewing beer for under $115 in equipment if you go the extract route. If you want to up your game, it'll be more like $500 if you start with a nice basic system.
as easy as Taking the first step and buying homebrewing equipment is an investment, but ultimately it’s much cheaper to make beer at home rather than buying it at the store.Watch the video below or keep reading to see us break down the numbers.
The Price of Craft Beer
Here in North Carolina, which is where we’re located, we pay anywhere from $10 - $12 for a 6 pack of craft beer. Though this has started to creep up a bit in recent years and the cost for 6 pack of "basic" craft beer tends to be at the higher end of this range these days.
Though, the price of craft beer increases sharply for special release beers and beers that require a lot of hops like hazy IPAs. Also, high ABV beers that have been aged for a while are quite expensive as well. 4 packs of specialty beers like these can easily sell for $15, which means they would cost $18-$20 or more as a 6 pack.
"Macro" or commercial beers like Coors Lite, Miller Lite, and Bud Light cost around $5 per 6 pack. They're cheap because they're produced in huge quantities and contain few of the ingredients (like specialty malt, hops, and hop oils) that tend to drive up the price of craft beer.
The Price of Homebrew
We looked back at 5 of the 20 beers we brewed in 2018 and calculated how much they would cost per 6 pack.
Black IPA - $3.69 per 6 pack
American Light Lager - $2.06 per 6 pack
Juicy NEIPA - $7.86 per 6 pack
Dry Stout - $3.29 per 6 pack
Pale Ale - $3.37 per 6 pack
When looking at the cost of all 20 beers we brewed in 2018, the average price of a Clawhammer 6 pack comes out to $4.05. For all 20 beers, we spent a total of $688 on raw materials. This takes into account the price of malt, hops, and yeast.
Overall, the price of homebrew beer is around 2.75 times cheaper than what it would cost to buy the same beers at the store. Even when comparing the American Light Lager that we brewed ($2.06 per 6 pack) to the cost of a commercial 6 pack ($5), homebrew is still quite a bit cheaper.
If we bought all 20 beers we brewed in 2018 at the store, we would have spent a minimum of $1,800 instead of $688. Therefore, by brewing these beers at home we saved $1,100. Currently, our 10 Gallon 120 Volt Brewing System is $899, which includes everything you would need to start brewing beer at home. If you bought this system or our cheaper starter system and brewed about every other weekend, your investment would easily pay off in one year or less.
Saving Money on Homebrew
Read the next article in this series to learn how to save even more money once you start homebrewing.