Few things in life can have the restorative and refreshing power of a cold, tasty beer, though indulging can get expensive. Some might wonder if homebrewing will save money, which will, depending on the economy of scale.
Mother’s milk of civilization
Ah, beer. The moderately alcoholic beverage has been made in some form for thousands of years, predating Western civilization, every modern religion and just about everything else. A large body of research indicates that demand for a steady supply is the reason civilization itself started in the first place.
Beer is now a global, multi-billion dollar entity dominated by commercial enterprises. However, a small cadre of people are trying their hand at homebrewing with varying results. The DIY-minded might wonder if they could save money by homebrewing. The answer is that it depends, mostly on the economy of scale. In other words, the cost of homebrewing must, over a given period, eventually come out as less than the cost of commercially-made beer one consumes to be cost-effective.
What one needs
First is the buy-in cost of brewing equipment. One needs a pot to make the beer mix or “wort” in, a fermentation vessel, bottles for after fermentation is done and a variety of small accessories for all these steps. Also, one needs the raw materials to make the brew, such as malt, hops, yeast and sugar, as well as equipment and materials for cleaning and sanitizing.
Those costs depend on what equipment one buys. A blog post on BullCityHomebrew.com, which sells homebrewing equipment, has a start-up kit including brew pot, fermentation vessels, accessories, beer ingredients and sanitizer for $205; a similar post on Wisebread.com pegs it at $180.
Then there is the cost of ingredients. A post on TheSimpleDollar.com has a five-gallon batch worth of materials, including yeast, sugar, malt and hops, for $35. Granted, those are using first-rate ingredients. So, all told, that first batch of homebrew could cost upward of $200 or more, almost as much as the typical payday loan.
Where the savings are realized
After buying the necessary equipment, the cost per batch drops to the cost of the raw materials. A five gallon batch produces roughly 53 12-ounce bottles. Wisebread pegs raw materials at $31 for a five gallon batch; BullCity has it at $40. Disregarding the buy-in cost, the cost per bottle is 58 and 75 cents, respectively, or about $3.50 and $4.50, respectively, per six-pack.
BullCity found that, relative to a $9 six-pack of craft beer, using their $205 kit and $40 raw materials, the enterprise begins saving money after 235 bottles, which one reaches in the fifth five-gallon batch. In consumption terms, that’s less than one bottle of beer per day for one year, a very moderate amount. If one gets a less expensive kit and less expensive raw materials, which is very easily done, the break-even point comes sooner. Some complete kits are much less expensive, such as a $58 example on Amazon and one on Google Shopping for $78, less shipping.
The person who rarely ever indulges will not realize a savings, but a person who drinks even moderately can realize a savings over the long term. There is also the satisfaction of having done something one’s self and having results to show for it, which is priceless. Just make sure to indulge responsibly.
Google Shopping: http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=Home+brew+kit&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=8227442285372148686&sa=X&ei=bSXFT6XlN7Ds2AWj8tXXAQ&ved=0CJYBEPMCMAY