Economics of Homebrewing Part 4



Welcome friends to my sort of annual, sometimes more often, tradition of compiling the costs associated with my personal homebrewing! Making delicious beer is fun, sometimes difficult, but always rewarding and I’ve grown to really enjoy this hobby over the few years that I’ve been at it. Tracking these numbers provides an interesting insight into how much this hobby costs and if you can really “save money” doing it.

On “Saving Money”

I first started writing these with an eye toward “saving” money on homebrewing. However, as soon as I published my first post in this series it became immediately obvious (to both me and everyone that commented on it) that I was missing the point. A hobby shouldn’t be about saving money, it should be about enjoying the hobby. If you happen to save some money along the way that’s great, but it should really be secondary to the experience.

So with that said if you are here looking for ways to save money on your homebrewing you won’t find it in this post. Lucky for you though I have started writing a few other posts that talk about various ways you could save money. Feel free to check them out below:

A Note About My Numbers

All amounts in this post (and elsewhere on this site) are in Canadian dollars.

Where I live in Ontario, Canada the price of beer tends to be a bit higher than you might find in the United States. So to give you a gauge for what I’m comparing against I’ve decided to use three different macro brew beer prices from my area. On the low end we have the cheap stuff (think Laker Lager) coming in at about $1.54/bottle. Mid-range would be your average beer, you know something like Budweiser, at about $1.63/bottle. Rounding out the high-end would be a craft beer of some sort, say Muskoka Detour IPA, which sells for around $2.35/bottle.

I would also like to give you an idea of what my current brewing process looks like in order to give some additional context to my numbers. Beyond the normal ingredients – like grain, hops and yeast – I do have a few other minor things to note. First off I start by using reverse osmosis (RO) water which I buy from a local store. I then make some minor water chemistry adjustments, something I started to really get into this year, and near the end of the boil I toss in some Irish moss as a fining agent. I also (still…) haven’t purchased a grain mill and so there is a nominal milling fee charged by my LHBS in each batch. Buying these “extras” adds approximately $6 to each brewed batch, most of which is the cost of the water.

As a line needs to be drawn somewhere, I do not track costs associated with my time, propane, non-brewing water used for things like cleaning, etc. I’m really just compiling these numbers out of interest and not with any level of scientific accuracy. Your results may vary.

“Essential” Equipment

Let’s talk about equipment for a minute. It’s true that you can make beer using pretty much whatever equipment you happen to have handy. On the other hand, this is a fun hobby and it’s very easy to want to splurge for the upgrades to make your brew day that much better. As a result the range of costs associated with equipment is likely the be the single biggest variable when comparing between homebrewers.

In order to try and account for this I’ve introduced what I call my ‘essential’ equipment. These represent the things that I own that I think are the absolute bare bones items you should probably have to homebrew beer. Now obviously what you consider essential may be different, and I’m also sure that you could find a lot of these things second hand, but I’ve based their costs on the amount each happened to sell for new.

My essentials list is as follows:

  • 5 Gallon Brewer’s Best Deluxe Homebrew Equipment Starter Kit – $164.99
  • 8 G Stainless Steel Kettle With Ball Valve And Thermometer – $98.50
  • 5G Coleman Cooler with 6” Bazooka Screen – $77.95
  • Universal Solid Carboy Bung – $0.99
  • Sanitizer Spray Bottle 16oz – $1.95
  • Auto Siphon Clamp – 1/2” – $2.95
  • Siphon Hose – $3.50
  • Fermtech Bottle Wand – $4.99
  • Barb connector for kettle – $16.25
  • Silicone High Temp Tubing – $13.95

Final Note On Numbers

One final note before we get into it – my numbers below might be completely different from yours and that’s perfectly OK! With that out of the way let’s get to the interesting part!

The Highlights

Overall Totals
Equipment Cost$965.78
“Essential” only Equipment Cost$408.46
Homebrew Cost$1,329.23
Total 355ml Beers Brewed1,498

My total spend over 38 brews was $965.78 for equipment and $1,329.23 on homebrew ingredients (gain, hops, yeast) and consumables (StarSan, muslin bags, salts, bottle caps, etc.). This is an increase of $25.99 in equipment and $311.66 in ingredients and consumables costs since my last post.

Where I live in Canada we don’t have as much access to low cost equipment and ingredients as, for example, those who live in the United States might so my equipment costs may be a bit higher than what you might expect. Additionally I’ve received a few gifts here and there and upgraded my equipment beyond what is required to actually brew beer. While these quality of life upgrades have been free to me I’ve included their full costs here just to be fair.

Economics of Homebrewing Part 2
Per Batch Averages
Average (Ingredients) Cost$28.24
Average Yield40 x 355ml bottles

This is an average increase of $0.06 per batch since last time. As I become more experienced in the hobby I’ve decided to branch out and try more complex, and therefore costly, recipes. I’ve also been getting more into water chemistry and so there are additional consumable ingredients required in each brew. That said it is a really minor increase so I’m fine with it.

Per Bottle Averages
Average 355ml Bottle Cost (With Equipment Cost)$1.53
Average 355ml Bottle Cost (With “Essential” only Equipment Cost)$1.16
Average 355ml Bottle Cost (Without Equipment Cost)$0.72

The per bottle averages went down with a decrease of $0.24/bottle including the equipment costs or a decrease of $0.20/bottle without. As I did not really add any new equipment this year I’m continuing to realize the “savings” from my previously sunk equipment costs.

Other Tracked Items
Reused Harvested Yeast$30 saved
Harvested Yeast ready for Future Use$80.23 ‘saved’

Reusing harvested or overbuilt yeast has been a huge win for saving money. Quite a few of my brews this year have used harvested yeast which has helped to cut out a significant part of the per-batch bill. Additionally, I started buying hops in bulk which has also helped to drive down costs a bit. Since the previous post I’ve saved $6.01 in reused/overbuilt yeast alone!

Breaking it Down

Interested in seeing what my numbers look like on a per batch basis?

ItemHomebrew Cost(Yield) # of 355ml BottlesAverage Cost per 355ml Bottle
Equipment$965.78N/AN/A
Consumables$255.97N/AN/A
Baldwin St. Bohemian Pilsner$31.9830$1.07
OBK Irish Blonde Ale$21.8540$0.55
OBK West Coast IPA$40.6535$1.16
OBK Witbier$22.5535$0.64
OBK Irish Stout$23.0137$0.62
OBK Irish Red$23.4944$0.53
OBK Cream Ale$21.8538$0.58
Goose Island IPA Clone$41.2648$0.86
Simple Apple (Juice) Cider$20.9032$0.65
Boddingtons Clone$25.0437$0.68
Centennial Blonde Ale$19.1743$0.45
Bohemian Pilsner$22.2548$0.46
English Honey Brown Ale$13.5643$0.32
Summer “Leftover” Ale$14.5537$0.39
True Believer$45.8943$1.07
Belgian Table Beer$18.9148$0.39
OBK Barleywine$30.1332$0.94
OBK American Amber Ale$31.6848$0.66
Vienna Lager$26.0429$0.90
The El Morillo$46.8837$1.27
Centennial Blonde Lager$20.1543$0.47
German AltBier$29.9940$0.75
Corona Extra Clone$29.4137$0.79
SFBC – Lando Saison$26.5043$0.62
OBK Hefenweizen$25.6148$0.53
Berliner Weisse Sour$32.7832$1.02
Summer “Leftover” Ale II$26.6937$0.72
Avg. Perfect Northeast IPA (NEIPA)$56.3943$1.31
Northern Brewer Oatmeal Stout$29.3648$0.61
OBK Dunkelweizen$18.3443$0.43
Crisis Response$38.5843$0.90
Homebrew Supply Mosaic Pilsner$28.9843$0.67
Kona Big Wave Golden Ale Clone$28.9543$0.67
SFBC – Lando Saison$32.8643$0.76
Kona Big Wave Golden Ale Clone$24.4543$0.57
Martin Keen’s Oktoberfest/Märzen$29.6048$0.62
Crisis Response II$41.7732$1.31
OBK English Brown Ale$11.245$2.25

Comparing it to the Big Guys

Following in the tradition of previous posts I’d like to take a moment and compare my results against the equivalent amount of commercial beer. What would it have cost me to buy the same amount of beer from the store? What, if anything, is my break even point?

Just another small reminder before I get into the numbers… Where I live in Ontario the price of beer can range anywhere from around $1.54 to $2.35/bottle so my numbers are based around that. While it’s very true that your personal breakeven will depend on what you would have bought in its place, I’ve picked this range to give a good overall perspective.

I also made wine this year. It was actually really good, but I did not include it in my numbers on this post.

Each row in the table below (apart from the first, which is the upfront equipment + non-ingredient consumable costs) represents the commutative yield+costs from each successive brewed batch. I then added the equivalent commercial cost to get to the same amount of beer for comparison.

# of 355ml BottlesHomebrew (Total)Homebrew (Essentials Only)Cheap ($1.54)Mid-Range ($1.63)Craft ($2.35)
0$1,221.75$664.43$0.00$0.00$0.00
30$1,253.73$696.41$46.20$48.90$70.50
70$1,275.58$718.26$107.80$114.10$164.50
105$1,316.23$758.91$161.70$171.15$246.75
140$1,338.78$781.46$215.60$228.20$329.00
177$1,361.79$804.47$272.58$288.51$415.95
221$1,385.28$827.96$340.34$360.23$519.35
259$1,407.13$849.81$398.86$422.17$608.65
307$1,448.39$891.07$472.78$500.41$721.45
339$1,469.29$911.97$522.06$552.57$796.65
376$1,494.32$937.00$579.04$612.88$883.60
419$1,513.49$956.17$645.26$682.97$984.65
467$1,535.74$978.42$719.18$761.21$1,097.45
510$1,549.30$991.98$785.40$831.30$1,198.50
547$1,563.85$1,006.53$842.38$891.61$1,285.45
590$1,609.74$1,052.42$908.60$961.70$1,386.50
638$1,628.65$1,071.33$982.52$1,039.94$1,499.30
670$1,658.78$1,101.46$1,031.80$1,092.10$1,574.50
718$1,690.46$1,133.14$1,105.72$1,170.34$1,687.30
747$1,716.50$1,159.18$1,150.38$1,217.61$1,755.45
784$1,763.38$1,206.06$1,207.36$1,277.92$1,842.40
827$1,783.53$1,226.21$1,273.58$1,348.01$1,943.45
867$1,813.51$1,256.19$1,335.18$1,413.21$2,037.45
904$1,842.92$1,285.60$1,392.16$1,473.52$2,124.40
947$1,869.42$1,312.10$1,458.38$1,543.61$2,225.45
995$1,895.03$1,337.71$1,532.30$1,621.85$2,338.25
1027$1,927.81$1,370.49$1,581.58$1,674.01$2,413.45
1064$1,954.50$1,397.18$1,638.56$1,734.32$2,500.40
1107$2,010.89$1,453.57$1,704.78$1,804.41$2,601.45
1155$2,040.25$1,482.93$1,778.70$1,882.65$2,714.25
1198$2,058.59$1,501.27$1,844.92$1,952.74$2,815.30
1241$2,097.17$1,539.85$1,911.14$2,022.83$2,916.35
1284$2,126.14$1,568.82$1,977.36$2,092.92$3,017.40
1327$2,155.10$1,597.78$2,043.58$2,163.01$3,118.45
1370$2,187.96$1,630.64$2,109.80$2,233.10$3,219.50
1413$2,212.41$1,655.09$2,176.02$2,303.19$3,320.55
1461$2,242.00$1,684.68$2,249.94$2,381.43$3,433.35
1493$2,283.77$1,726.45$2,299.22$2,433.59$3,508.55
1498$2,295.01$1,737.69$2,306.92$2,441.74$3,520.30

So what does all of that look like when graphed over time?

Based on the above numbers I have already essentially broken even for all prices of commercial beer. Using just the essential equipment, homebrewing became cheaper at the batches that gave me 419 bottles for craft, 718 for mid-range, and 784 for cheap beer. Even with all of my homebrewing costs factored in I came out ahead at 747 for craft, 1,327 for mid-range, and 1,461 bottles for the cheap stuff.

Taking equipment costs complete out, here is a look at my average monthly batch cost by year:

And another based on my per bottle averages:

Conclusions

So looking at this it’s obvious that you can definitely break even and maybe save some money while homebrewing. In saying that I don’t personally think saving money should be the main goal of a fun hobby, although it is a nice side-benefit. For me I homebrew because, like any form of cooking, it’s a fun way to have complete control over what you’re making.

Like I said in my last post in the series, I think the cost savings really come down to how often you brew vs how much money you’ve sunk into equipment. Generally the more you brew, assuming you’re making batches that cost less than commercial beer, the more you’ll recoup the money you’ve put in.

If your goal is to treat homebrewing more like a way to save money then there are a lot of options to go down that path too. As mentioned above I’ve listed a few ideas here:

With all of that said I hope you once again enjoyed reading through my latest update on the “economics of homebrewing”! If you want to read the previous posts in the series you can do so by clicking the link here. Or if you have any questions about the numbers I’ve presented above please feel free to ask below.

Lastly, now that you’ve seen the numbers maybe you’d like to read more about the individual beers! Below is a quick gallery with links to the individual brew days. Until next time RDWHAHB!

Cheers!



One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *