A Cost Comparison of Home Brew Vs. Store-Bought Beer

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To brew one’s own beer is, in my book, one of life’s great pleasures. But, as the Bargain Babe, I’m not convinced that brewing my own beer is any cheaper than buying it from the store. Of course, this is assuming my homemade beer would taste as good as a pint of my favorite store-bought brand.

Well, I finally decided to settle the debate once and for all. Here is my breakdown of home brew vs. store-bought beer.

Does brewing your own beer save money?

First, let’s compare the cost of home brew to the cost of store-bought for an entire year. For the sake of the experiment, let’s also assume that you consume one six-pack a week. I’ll ignore the negligible costs of storage and energy for both methods.

Store-bought beer costs approximately $5-$9, depending on whether you buy an inexpensive brand or fancy schmancy craft beer. Again, for this analysis, let’s assume you spend $7 a week on a middle-of-the-road six-pack, which amounts to $364 (plus tax) a year.

The True Cost of Home Brewing

For home brew, you have to invest in supplies, plus ingredients for each batch.

A basic home brewing kit at MoreBeer.com costs $109. Shipping is free. An ingredient kit, called extract, for mild brown beer costs $25 and makes 5 gallons, or about 50 beers (equivalent to 8.3 six-packs). A tube of liquid yeast costs $5.75 and bottle caps (I’m going to assume you saved empty beer bottles to avoid the cost of buying new ones) will run you $1.50. That brings the cost of your first batch of home brewed beer to $141.25.

That’s $16.95 per six-pack!

However, each additional batch of home brew only costs $32.25 (extract + yeast + caps). A batch makes 8.3 six-packs, so you only have to brew once every two months, give or take. A year of home brewing will cost you $109 for the kit, plus six batches at $32.25 each. That comes to $302.50.

Home brewing saves approximately $62 a year.

Hmmmm…. With that kind of savings, brewing your own beer might not be the kind of money-saving endeavor that would help fund your next vacation or amount to a significant contribution to your emergency fund.

Also, if time is money, that figure doesn’t take into account the hours spent making beer, either. But…. on the flip side, how could I ever put a price on the street cred I would earn for making my own beer?!! Plus, in my opinion, brewing beer sure beats watching TV as a hobby.

The Bottom Line

I’ve made plenty of things myself, like granola bars, bagels, and hummus. When I’m contemplating a house repair, I calculate my own hourly rate to help me decide if I should hire a contractor or not.

But I’m going to add beer making to the list of DIY projects I would never do. It just doesn’t seem worth the dollar savings.

Would you brew your own beer?

Julia Scott founded the money saving and coupon blog, BargainBabe.com.

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Comments (2) Leave your comment

  1. You forget to mention that the $62 savings will pay the kit off in a little over a year. After that each six-pack will cost roughly $4. Might I add, it will be considered craft beer once you get dialed in! 🙂 happy brewing!

  2. I have recently went to all grain brewing, from extract kits. Have been homebrewing over 2 years. I also recently have started to make a light beer comparable to miller-coors-bud in 10 gallon batches. Yes I have money invested in equipment. My most recent batch cost was $25 for 10 gallons (over 4 cases of 24, Less than $6 a case) Bulk ingredients and a natural gas burner are big savings.

    Also I have made quite a few home brewed IPAs. They are more expensive than the light beer, but still much cheaper than buying IPAs at store prices. Maybe $20 a case, so more like the price of a commercial light beer.

    The up front cost of equipment may deter some people, but in all reality it is not too expensive for the basics. You can get a bucket fermenter and airlock from a local homebrew store for less than $20. An autosiphon, capper, hydrometer and bottling wand for another $40. If you have a stockpot you can use that for the boil.

    After I typed this out I realize this article is 7 years old. I just don’t want it to talk someone out of the homebrewing hobby. As with any hobby, there are upfront costs. You can decide to go as big or as small as you want, just like anything.

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