A financial review of homebrewing

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:

ItemCost     # Bottles   
Startup stuff (fermenter, siphon, carboy/lock, etc)$10055
Kegging system (kegs, cylinders, fridge, taps & parts)$500273
King cooker & pot$8044
Immersion cooler$3519
Mash system (cooler, valve, mesh hose)$7038

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!

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