Economics of Homebrewing



AKA “Can I save money homebrewing my own beer?”

Where I live, in Ontario, Canada, the average price of a case of 24 beers is $34.95 or roughly $1.46 per 355ml beer. If you want to drink some craft beer instead you need to be prepared to pay quite a bit more. So ever since I started this fun hobby I’ve been interested in tracking my homebrew costs so that I can compare those to what buying the equivalent amount of commercial beer from the store would cost. That way I can definitely answer the question “can I save money homebrewing my own beer?”.

Homebrew costs over first 1011 brews

Before I begin I feel like I need to add a few caveats to my numbers.

When I jumped into this hobby I dove in pretty hard and so I ended up buying quite a bit of the optional, quality of life, pieces of equipment that you don’t technically need to make good beer. I would put things like an immersion chiller, extra fermentation bucket, magnetic stir plate, and even a mash tun on that list. This means that my “sunk” homebrew equipment costs aren’t the absolute lowest they could be.

Not only that but I was also fortunate enough to receive a substantial amount of this equipment as gifts and so my true out of pocket equipment expenses are actually much lower. However I wanted to track my numbers as if I had purchased everything at full price so that I could make a somewhat accurate comparison against buying commercial beer.

So with all that said in order to make things a bit more clear I’m going to show some of the numbers below with and some without the upfront cost of the equipment.

The Highlights

Overall Totals
Equipment Cost$674.72
Homebrew Cost$393.19
Total 355ml Beers Brewed419

My total spend over my first 11 brews was $674.72 for equipment and $393.19 on homebrew ingredients (gain, hops, yeast) and consumables (StarSan, muslin bags, etc.).

Per Batch Averages
Average (Ingredients) Cost$26.52
Average Yield38 x 355ml bottles

I personally find it difficult to understand exactly “how much” beer a gallon is so I’ve been tracking my production yield in terms of something more manageable: a single standard bottle of beer.

Per Bottle Averages
Average 355ml Bottle Cost (With Equipment Cost)$2.55
Average 355ml bottle Cost (Without Equipment Cost)$0.70

As you can see from above with the upfront costs of all of my equipment (again this includes the full price of things that I’ve gotten as gifts) my per bottle cost is currently around $2.55. However if you ignore the equipment costs for a moment that actual beer cost drops significantly down to about 70 cents!

Other Tracked Items
Reused Harvested Yeast$13.49 saved

I’ve only recently gotten into overbuilding my starters and washing yeast. So far I’ve only been able to reuse the yeast a small number of times but even that has saved me from having to buy $13.49 worth of new yeast.

Breaking it Down

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

ItemHomebrew Cost(Yield) # of 355ml BottlesAverage Cost per 355ml BottleRunning Homebrew Cost
Equipment$674.720$0$674.72
Consumables$101.450$0$776.17
Baldwin St. Bohemian Pilsner$31.9830$1.07$808.15
OBK Irish Blonde Ale$21.8540$0.55$830.00
OBK West Coast IPA$40.6535$1.16$870.65
OBK Witbier$22.5535$0.64$893.20
OBK Irish Stout$23.0137$0.62$916.21
OBK Irish Red$23.4944$0.53$939.70
OBK Cream Ale$21.8538$0.58$961.55
Goose Island IPA Clone$41.2648$0.86$1,002.81
Simple Apple (Juice) Cider$20.9032$0.65$1,023.71
Boddingtons Clone$25.0437$0.68$1,048.74
Centennial Blonde Ale$19.1743$0.45$1,067.91

Comparing it to the Big Guys

Alright so with all of that out of the way how do things compare against the “big guys”? What would it have cost me to buy the equivalent amount of beer from the store? What, if anything, is my break even point?

# of 355ml BottlesHomebrewCommercial
0$776.17$0.00
30$808.15$43.69
70$830.00$101.94
105$870.65$152.91
140$893.20$203.88
177$916.21$257.76
221$939.70$321.83
259$961.55$377.17
307$1,002.81$447.07
339$1,023.71$493.67
376$1,048.74$547.55
419$1,067.91$610.17

So when will I break even? Well according to Excel’s handy FORECAST function it looks like it’ll be around 1,137 x 355ml bottles of beer. And just for fun I decided to figure out what the “break even” point was if you take out all of the equipment costs. That’s obviously much lower at only 127 x 355ml botles of beer.

Conclusions

So what did we learn? Well I’ve learned that in general the materials costs of homebrewing beer so relatively low that the only substantial deciding factor on the question of “can I save money homebrewing my own beer?” is how much equipment you end up buying. Even in my case where the upfront costs of the equipment were relatively high I will still break even and end up saving money in the long term, it’s just a matter of how quickly you can get there.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this post and I plan to continue this series going forward as I keep tracking my homebrew costs. If you have any questions about the numbers I’ve presented above please feel free to ask 🙂

Update: A follow up post to this, titled Economics of Homebrewing Part 2, can be found here.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. PNK says:

    I’ve done similar analyses of my own brewing. By buying grain and hops in bulk and saving yeast I was able to get the materials costs down to around $.40/ 750mL brewed.

    Another interesting analysis is of the marginal costs of continuing to brew (as much of the equipment costs are already sunk at this point.) For me, the biggest increase in my marginal efficiency came when I upped my batch size and started sharing brewday and the fruits with friends. A modest investment in a 13 gallon kettle allowed me to go from about $1/ 750mL down to $.40/750mL.

    In general, I found that once you are able to start buying 2row by the sack and save yeast (or get some free from a local brewery,) your cost per beer shrunk from cheap hobby to negligibility (in my budget at least.) The cost of a day hanging out with friends is typically more than my average brewday- no driving, no tab, and it keeps my pantry stocked with beer for the next month.

    1. Brewers Journey says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment! I’m also expecting per-beer costs to continue to decrease now that I’m over the largest of the equipment sunk costs. I also completely agree with your last point about the knock-on effects as well. Great point!

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