Frugal Living 

Brewing Your Own Good Beer on the Cheap

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Back in college, for kicks, I started brewing my own beer with kits I purchased from a company called Windriver Brewing Company, located out of Wisconsin. Two friends of mine in college actually started before me and, through their urging, I started to brew myself. Since graduating though I haven’t brewed a batch and I’m looking to get back into it since it was so much fun and so easy to do.

For the frugalists out there, you can get a full kit (I have the All World Apprentice kit) for $57.95 (+ shipping) which comes with everything you’ll need to brew your first batch (except bottles), including an ingredient kit (Ingredient kits usually run about $25 a piece), and each batch makes 5 gallons, or 640 ounces, or fifty three beers. That’s a dollar a beer on your first batch and only fifty cents a beer on your second batch! The beer also only take three weeks to prepare (two weeks to brew in the bucket, one week to carbonate in the bottle) so you can enjoy it very soon after starting the process.

Brewing beer is really really simple and it’s an opportunity to try something new (and good). I’m a huge fan of stouts, I love Guinness, and so when you can get an Oatmeal Stout ($23.95) or a Milkhouse Cream Stout ($22.95) at that price, you can’t beat it. Imagine drinking Guinness-like (slightly different flavors of course) at fifty cents a bottle!

I’m not going to go into the details of how to brew beer except that it takes, in total, maybe five hours of time (spread across three days in the three weeks). You can also buy bottles (big bottles too to save on the time you’ll spend) or just keep bottles you drink (they can’t be domestic twist off bottle caps, they need to be bottle-opener necessary bottles like Samuel Adams or Newcastle).

The two friends who turned me onto the idea of brewing have since graduated to buying grains themselves and skipping the kit but I think kits are still the way to go for the novice weekend dabbler such as myself. Honestly, at 50 cents a beer for a high quality beer, how can you afford to not to brew your own beer?

{ 16 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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16 Responses to “Brewing Your Own Good Beer on the Cheap”

  1. lamoneyguy says:

    Sweet! Now THIS is useful personal finance advice! A buddy of mine and I tried home brewing once. We followed a recipe online instead if a kit. We ended up with over fermented skunky stuff. I agree, for newbies, go with the kit.

  2. Amanda says:

    How do you rate it, on a taste scale?

  3. jim says:

    Well you pick your ingredient kit based on what you like, I think that the stouts I brewed were as good as Guinness/Murphy Irish if not better, of course I am biased because I brewed it. 🙂

    You won’t think that you’re drinking an inferior beer but I wouldn’t brew a light beer since it’s really not worth all that effort to brew yourself a miller lite.

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  5. I’ve been brewing beer for years; in fact, my fiance and I are giving homebrew to our wedding guests as the favor. Which reminds me, I need to get going brewing that…

    Depending upon the style of beer, it can take more than 3 weeks. In fact, almost everything I make has at least a two month turnaround, and my stouts and porters usually have about a 4 or 5 month turnaround before I start drinking them. They taste so much better after they have aged.

    Generally speaking, the first batch is the hardest while you wait for it to be ready. I use a racking system where I leave it in the primary fermenter for 1 to 2 weeks (depending on style) and then rack it to another fermenter to get it out of its sediment for anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months. Sometimes I will rack it more than once. The trick is to start the next batch right after the first batch before you can drink it, because then once you do start drinking it you are currently drinking the brew from a few months ago.

    I also recommend kegs; they are much easier than bottling. I also use my kegs to do the bottling, which is better than gravity. I will say, though, that unless you are doing all grain brewing, the costs are not a whole lot cheaper than what you would normally buy. A little bit, but not a ton. The satisfaction of having your own recipes though…mmmmm….

    • Sherri says:

      My spouse has been brewing wine for over 20 years and is getting into brewing beer. He is looking for a more frugal way to brew beer. Do you have any suggestions of where to find the grains, recipes, etc.? This year, we are harvesting our own hops (which we are using to shade the south side of our house.) This is the one thing we don’t need a source for.

      • dan says:

        I do a batch that is cheep and good.
        1 lb. chocolate malt
        1 lb. two row malt
        1/4 oz mt. hood or cascade hops
        7 oz. yeast package
        1 cup sugar (of your choice)

        leave set 2 weeks bottle leave set 1 week done
        use 3/4 cup of sugar for priming bottles.

  6. jim says:

    Great comment Blaine, I agree, if you start getting into creating your own recipes and multiple fermentation periods (I do agree, the longer the better) the price will start going up but at that point you’re loving the craft and not just trying to get a cheap beer. 🙂

    I starting using glass carboys but the first time I did it, I put the hot mixture into the glass and ran some water on it… boom, explosion, extreme sadness, and then frustration as I had to clean it up. Hot to cold real quick in glass is BAD.

  7. Cap says:

    “how can you afford not to brew your own beer?”

    easy. be a joy-kill bastard like me and not drink at all.

  8. I may have to pick up a kit on my next trip back home – at $2.50 a beer for the cheap stuff out here, it would be a great savings. Wonder if I’ll have any trouble importing it?

  9. Dale says:

    For Cap the joy-killer, I will point out that many homebrew supply stores will also happily sell you kits and ingredients for making your own soda at home. I don’t know whether that is cost-effective or not, but it might be worth checking into.

  10. Jimmy Jojo says:

    I recently made my first ever batch of beer. It’s something I have been thinking about doing for years and have been saving the “Grolsch” style bottles with a swing-top cap so I can eliminate the bottle capping process. That saves a few bucks and time for each batch.

  11. frugal says:

    I have been homebrewing several years and have made some pretty exotic kits and some really simple recipes with varying success. I love a good Pale Ale and am able to come up with a decent brew by using 2- 1 liter cans of Blue Ribbon malt (hopped) and adding 1 oz. bittering and 1 oz. finishing hops, (which I buy by the pound and store in the refrig in zip-locks) along with 1 to 2 pounds corn sugar. I don’t use the yeast that comes in the can lid because I can’t determine what it is. I use a $3 package of ale yeast, boil for 1 hour, and I don’t even try to determine beginning and ending gravity. I couldn’t change it anyway. Then, when bottling, I add 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming.
    The liquid malt is $6 per can so I end up with less than $20 invested in 5 gallons of my notion of really good beer. Specific gravity can be adjusted by increasing sugar in wort.

  12. brian jacks says:

    I’ve been brewing beer for must be getting on for over 35 years. Here in the UK I think it may be a little cheaper than the US and the savings are very considerable indeed.

    I can brew real ale from grain with my home grown hops for as little as 15 to 17 pence a pint (with a Original G at 1048) (at an exchange rate of say in the region of about 1.46 that would be 22 to 25 cents per pint) to buy a pint of real ale bitter (cast conditioned beer from the hand pump) in our local village pub would cost you about ÂŁ2.40p ($3.50). The same beer In the highlands of Scotland in a local hotel would set you back about ÂŁ3.70 ($5.40) In Ireland it’s even dearer!

    I use a 36 litre insulated cool box that has been converted to a mash tun by running a 22mm copper pipe in a loop with slots cut into it with a hacksaw the exits out via a tap. I had mine made to order, but after seeing how it was made I could have easily made one myself saving quite a bit.

    I purchased a stainless steel 7 gallon wash boiler to boil the wort’s with the hops.

    I have brewed Guinness type stout, using 7 pounds of crushed Pale malt barley, 2 pounds of flaked barley 1 pound of crushed roasted barley 1 once of bullion hops and 3 ounces of northern brewers hops and yeast from a Guinness bottle (if your lucky I had to settle for a stout type yeast) for a 5 gallon brew. I have substituted goldings Kent hops from time to time. I use 5 gallon pressure barrels to store can be consumed after 7 to 10 days

  13. Anonymous says:

    “You can also buy bottles (big bottles too to save on the time you’ll spend) or just keep bottles you drink” I have a local store that sells all kinds of craft beers, I buy 2-3 quarts,22oz or 24oz bottles every week after I grab that weekends kit from the LHBS “most LHBS will make you a kit of their own recipe in any gallon increment” not only will you accumulate lots of bottles but try many different styles of beer you may want to try to make!

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