This evening SWMBOd noticed me pouring a pint, and asked if I had “saved enough money to pay for all the [brewing] crap I had bought”. I don’t brew to save money – I brew because I love the process and the product – but I often tell my wife that I save us a bit of money every time I brew. . .
. . .so am I a liar?
First we need a baseline. I’m unfortunate enough to live in Ontario, where beer (and other alcoholic products) are sold by one of two monopolies – the government run LCBO or the government-endorsed Beer Stores – owned by a handful of megabrewers. This horrendous state of affairs has lead to a situation where most beer is distributed via the beer store, which charges non-megabrewers a premium to stock their products. Meaning any beer that doesn’t have the taste, colour and odour of camel urine comes at a steep price – 6-packs range from $12 for locally brewed browns to over $15 for some of the nicer IPAs and strong stouts. Prices at the LCBO are similar, although there are a few 6-packs available for just under $12. Neither store notices Belgium very often, but the odd time they do you can expect to pay at lest $6 – per bottle – if you can get some before the shelves are stripped. Adding in sales tax, this means a bottle of beer costs $2.25 to over $2.80/bottle (obviously, ignoring those tasty Belgians).
I brew 20L batches; equivalent to 60 bottles of beer. My past few batches have cost between $14.21 (Merlins Mild) and $43.88 (Hopsteader – damn, hops are expensive). Most come in between $20 and $25 per batch. So that’s $0.24 to $0.73 per bottle! Even my planned barley wine should come it at about $1 per bottle (edit: official number is $1.33). That’s some big savings. Assuming an average batch price of $25, I’m paying $0.42/bottle.
So even assuming I only buy the cheapest of craft beer, I’m saving ($2.25 – $0.42) = $1.83 per bottle. Per batch that’s a savings of $109.80. That’s not bad!
So on the surface, it seems I’m saving money. . .but there is still one thing missing – equipment costs. Some of this costs are from memory and may not be correct. None-the-less, here’s the items & their cost, as well as the number of bottles of homebrew needed to offset the cost:
|Startup stuff (fermenter, siphon, carboy/lock, etc)||$100||55|
|Kegging system (kegs, cylinders, fridge, taps & parts)||$500||273|
|King cooker & pot||$80||44|
|Mash system (cooler, valve, mesh hose)||$70||38|
The above doesn’t count dual-use items like the miscellaneous pots & utensils I borrow from the kitchen. Nor does it cover the cost of planned acquisitions – a grain mill and two-tap tower for my keggorator. But to date I’ve spent roughly $800 on brewing equipment – which will pay for itself after roughly 435 bottles of beer – AKA 7.3 batches of beer. Since re-starting this hobby I’ve brewed just shy of three times that amount.
So yes dear, I am saving money!