The question of whether brewing beer at home is cheaper than buying it in a store has always been asked by people about to embark on the road towards homebrewing. I was no different and I actually put off brewing my own beer for years because of it, so I decided to give you the definitive answer in this post.
So, is homemade beer really cheaper than store-bought big brand beer?
When done right brewing beer at home is cheaper than buying it from a store. Producing larger quantities of beer per batch and reusing beer making kits will also reduce the price per beer. A new home brewer is going to save up to and around $1 per home brewed beer, saving go up with experience
The price depends on what type of beer you are buying, where you live and how you are making your beer at home and your skill.
There are many factors that newcomers to brewing beer at home may not be able to discover on their own when choosing the right beer kit to buy. Below I have given you three clear example which will explain just how brewing beer at home can be cheaper than buying it.
Overall, it is sure that brewing your own beer is much cheaper than drinking in a restaurant or bar, but can the same really be said of buying big brand beer in your local supermarket?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the average cost of a supermarket bought beer in the USA ranges from $1.37 to $1.87, in the UK from $1.16 to $1.69 (1 USD = 0.79 GBP) , in Sydney Australia it’s as much as $2.38 (1 USD = 1.45 AUD).
Source: Wall street journal
So, let me give a specific example or a store-bought beer and a similar beer you could make at home.
The real cost of brewing beer: 3 examples.
The type of beer we probably want to make is usually a little more than a standard lager type beer.
( US gallons)
(per 12 fl.oz )
Price per beer
(12 fl oz/354 ml)
Price difference (similar
Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA
up to 10
up to 53
Northern Brewer Chinook IPA
up to 53
A Brewdog Punk IPA (330 ml/11.15 fl oz) will cost $2.29 (£1.80) if you were to buy it in Sainsburys, a popular supermarket in the UK (Yep, I’m a Brit). Note: it’s really hard to get prices for alcohol online from US supermarkets for some reason. Strange!
If we go onto Amazon to buy a beer making kit, you can get an IPA beer making kit for around $40. This will produce roughly a 1 US gallon yield of beer (3.78 liters/ 0.83 Imperial gallons).
This 1-gallon kit will produce around ten 12 fl oz (354 ml) bottles of beer. (1 gallon = 128 fl oz/ 12 = 10.66 bottles)
A base cost of $37.97 divided by 10 beers gives us a unit price of $3.79 per beer. That’s $1.50 more per beer than if we bought the Punk IPA from the supermarket. But let’s not forget that in my example the Punk IPA is 11.15 fl oz and not 12 fl.
If, however, you upped the yield of your batch of beer to 5 gallons instead of 1, what would that do to the price?
Northern Brewer offers a Chinook IPA Beer Brewing Recipe Kit with absolutely everything you need (unlike the Brooklyn Brew Shop which requires bottles as an extra). It’s priced at $109.99
5 gallons produces 53 12 fl oz bottles of beer or thereabouts. (5 gallon = 640 fl oz/ 12 = 53.33 bottles)
$109.99 / 53 = $2.07. That’s $0.22 cheaper per bottle not forgetting that my example was just under 12 fl oz.!
So, a small saving here but remember that we are talking about an IPA which is one type of beer. Is there something which will be cheaper to brew at home?
If we were to buy a bottle of Samuel Adams lager from the same supermarket, it would cost us $1.59 (£1.25) for a 330ml/11.15 fl oz beer.
Jump back onto Amazon and you’ll find a 5-gallon recipe kit for making a very similar beer from Northern Brewers which will set you back $43.99. In this case, you are just getting the ingredients you need and not the equipment.
So, what would be the price now?
5 gallons produces 53 12 fl oz bottles of beer. (5 gallon = 640 fl oz/ 12 = 53.33 bottles)
$43.99 / 53 = $0.83. That’s $0.76 cheaper per bottle and we get more beer in that bottle too!
So, the answer is that YES, brewing beer at home can be cheaper than buying it in a store. You just have to brew the right beer and get the right kit or, to make an initial investment in equipment and brew towards a return on your investment.
There are many kits out there and I have chosen just three good examples above. One of the best places to get a starter kit is online as you have so much choice and it’s cheaper than in a store. If you would like to know more click on this link and go to Amazon.
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Are there other costs which can affect the price of your home-brew?
Yes, there certainly are and many new homebrewers are unaware of hidden costs as well as some of the benefits from taking this new hobby of yours a step further.
Additional equipment you may need to buy.
As with our first example, you get most of what you need to brew beer as a complete beginner. There are several stages in brewing your own beer and for each of them, you will need a particular piece of equipment. Often, this doesn’t mean a specialized piece of kit, but it does mean you need something which can do the job properly.
Many kits come with 99% of the equipment you need, but these can be nearer to $100 than $50.The example I gave you, the Northern Brewer Chinook IPA kit, actually gives you everything you need!
With the Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA, you need to buy bottles and a funnel ( at the very least) as these didn’t come as part of the kit. This could be an additional cost of $20-$30 depending on what you bought. Of course, you need to put your beer somewhere to finish the brewing process and therefore bottles (or a keg) are essential.
When you become more advanced, you may also want to invest in more equipment, especially for cooling your beer down or for checking alcohol volume, etc. All of these one-time investments can be pricey, but they can also make the process of brewing beer at home more efficient and easier to perfect.
Make sure that you really understand the different steps in making beer and you are not caught out by not having something vital when you reach a particular stage in your brewing. Always prepare everything before you begin.
How much time do you need to invest?
Exactly how much time you need to spend making the beer is also a consideration for many people. After all, as the old adage goes, “time is money”.
Depending on your beer kit or recipe, the process may take more or less time. Things like choosing a recipe that uses an extract will be quicker than if you want to take a more hands-on approach and mash the sugar out of your grains yourself. All in all, the actual brewing stage won’t be more than a few hours. The bottling stage will become faster as you become more adept at it but is certainly more time consuming than storing your beer in a keg.
Another time consideration, although more passive, that many beginners don’t know about is the time it takes to allow the beer to carbonate in bottles. This stage can take anywhere up to 3 weeks. You’d be pretty thirsty by the time those beers were ready!
Are there any other additional costs?
During the process of making the beer, it does need to be heated and also cooled (this can be done by just letting it cool naturally).
The actual boiling up of the ingredients (shop for your brewing ingredients on homebrewing.org). in the initial stages of the process requires a heat source. It can take up to a few hours of boiling to complete this stage, and that can be expensive for some utility tariffs.
Some brewers will also want to cool down the wort (beer brew) themselves to control certain aspects of the beer such as alcohol content and quality of its taste. If you use an electrically powered cooler, this, of course, costs money too as it can take a certain amount of time to do this.
Another thing to consider is when you buy a kit online you may need to pay shipping as the package is fairly large. I was personally quoted nearly the same cost as the actual kit to ship it outside of the US. For some people, you may be able to find a local homebrewing store which may work out cheaper than shopping online. For others, I would recommend shopping around but generally, Amazon is a good place to buy your equipment especially if you have Amazon Prime.
The price of failure
Also, it’s worth noting that you probably won’t be that successful with your initial attempts at brewing beer at home. It’s a science and as such you need to learn how to do it well. You might find that your first batch needs to be tweaked before it meets the standards you were expecting. Of course, this may mean that you may be pouring some of those first batches away. Maybe!
Will the cost per beer get cheaper the more batches I make?
Yes, without a doubt. Once you make the upfront investment in buying your beer making equipment, you will then just need to pay for the ingredients for your beer. Most beer kits you can buy online or in stores are reusable. Just clean them, buy some more ingredients and brew up another batch.
Also, as we have seen, the bigger the quantity of beer brewed the cheaper the overall price will get. Of course, how much beer you brew will depend on your skill and how much storage space you have as well as how much beer you actually need.
How can I make beer at home without a kit?
You can source your own equipment from everyday hardware stores which may be cheaper. Basically, you need a large pot to boil the ingredient in, a large container for fermenting and cooling the beer and empty bottles with a tube or funnel to transfer the beer from the container into them.
For beginners, I would really recommend that you use a beer making kit, at least on your first couple of tries. After you have made your first batch with a simple 1-gallon kit, you will know exactly what you need in the future if you want to up your beer yield