Time for another post about saving some money while homebrewing some delicious beer! This time we’re going to discuss hops – the cool plant that imparts a great deal of flavour to our beer, but also comes with quite a hefty price tag.
Depending on the kind of beers you make hops might be your largest expense per batch. This is especially true if you’re into very hoppy beers like IPAs and the like. So what can you do to help mitigate the expense?
Buy in Bulk
Like with grain, buying in bulk is a very straight forward way to decrease your hop expense. As a quick example if I were to compare buying a 1 oz packet of hops from my local homebrew store vs buying an 8 oz or 16 oz packet instead the difference is quite astounding. Buying an 8 oz packet saves me 28% per ounce and buying an 16 oz packet saves me almost 40%!
Of course the downside here is that you’ll end up with a lot more hops which means you need to think about how best to use them while they’re fresh or properly store them. It’s also a bit difficult to do if you just need 1 or 2 oz of a specialty hop for a particular brew. Still, even if you only do this for the classic hops you find yourself using all the time (i.e. Saaz, Citra, etc.) you’ll be saving quite a bit in the end!
Switch to Cheaper Alternatives
No I don’t mean swapping out hops entirely, although some brewers have actually had success doing just that by subbing in tea bags or other things instead. What I mean is that not all hops are sold at the same price and sometimes you can find a cheaper hop that is similar enough for you to swap out the more expensive one with. There are great hop substitution charts and resources for this online that you can lookup to help you out.
Another way to look at it is to separate out your hop choices into bittering, flavouring and aroma categories. Usually the hops you use at the start of your boil, to bitter the beer, don’t leave nearly as much flavour in the end product. This is a perfect spot to swap out the expensive hops with cheaper alternatives that get you to the same overall IBUs.
Grow your Own
So I don’t actually know how economical this one is. On one hand if you get it right you’ll definitely end up with a lot of cheap hops. However, on the other hand you will have needed to cultivate your crop to get to that point and that means a lot of time, effort, space, water and proper growing conditions. This is especially true when you take into consideration that it could be a couple of years before you can actually use anything you grow in your beers. So your mileage may vary on this one for sure!
Hops are a very important ingredient in brewing quality beer. Hopefully the ideas above have given you some insight into how to save some money while still making the best beer possible!