No one is going to argue with you that craft beer is an expensive hobby to get into, it is, and there are not many ways around it. Craft beers are artisanal products using prime ingredients handcrafted in the state of the art machinery. All that stuff costs plenty of money. So how can you enjoy craft beer on a budget? I’m working on doing this myself and am sharing my ways; please share yours in the comments!
Prices Rise Down the Rabbit Hole
Beyond all craft beer being somewhat expensive, there is another problem I’ve found that the more you get into craft beer, the more expensive things get. A general craft beer progression seems to be that first pint at a bar, then a 6-pack, a few mixed 6-packs, and then you get into beers only available in bombers. Now you’ve gone from paying $10 for a 6-pack (72 ounces) to paying $10+ for a bomber (22 ounces).
The next evolution comes a year or two later for some. Hunting rarer bottle releases that have you driving across town, state, or country to pay $20+ for a bomber or a 4-pack. Either around this time or later still folks stumble into sours, you’re still going to your local bottle shop, but now you’re buying 750 ml bottles (25 ounces) for $15 – $25.
I’m not even going to get into shipping costs when you get into trading beers[footnote]FedEx & UPS don’t allow shipping beer and it’s a crime via USPS, so I don’t know anything about shipping costs for beer… ;)[/footnote]. I try to convince myself those aren’t “beer” expenses, but that’s bull crap.
But once you’re far down the rabbit hole what can you do to get back to ground level? How can you keep drinking craft beer on a budget?
Climb Out of the Rabbit Hole
Instead of always hunting those rare bombers that some super-secret Facebook group has you convinced you absolutely must drink you can go back to the start on a Kroger shelf. Just because a beer is rare or expensive doesn’t mean it’s any better than something sitting on a store shelf. Plus everything on that shelf, be it Kroger or Cappy’s, is probably around $10 a bomber or 6-pack.
I know more people who want to try Dark Lord than even know about Victory Storm King. Storm King has a 100 rating on RateBeer and is available in $10 4-packs at any better beer store on any day. It’s the first stout I ever had and still holds a special place in my heart, and it should be in yours too! No waiting in line, trading, or long drives required.
IPAs more your thing? Thrillist has a list of 10 IPAs selected by some of the best brewmasters in the country. Here’s the kicker, 9 of them are sitting on store shelves across the city, and 2 of these IPAs are brewed in Ohio!! Fat Heads Head Hunter and Brew Kettle White Rajah are must-drink IPAs that you can buy at Kroger for $10.
First off homebrewing seems to be a natural evolution for many beer enthusiasts. Most I’ve talked to first get into it for three reasons:
- They’re Do-It-Yourself type people
- They want to brew a beer that’s harder to come by (this was me)
- They want to save money
The initial setup for homebrewing can be pricey depending on how big you want to go. I usually say bare minimum equipment costs is $50. The equipment can get costly[footnote]The fault in the homebrew theory is that you start chasing the dragon of better gear. Yes, you got going for $50, but your beer would be so much better with that $130 8 gallon kettle with spigot & thermometer. Now you need to go all grain and spend $80 on a mash tun. So this may not be the way to save money, but it could be.[/footnote] But the per batch savings are fantastic. The following prices are courtesy of Osborn Brewing from their pre-made kits and make 5 gallons, or 640 ounces, or ~ 52 bottles of beer.
Cincinnati Common – $27.99 = $0.53 per bottle
Up Yours Kit (IPA) – $49 (varies based on aroma hops chosen) = $0.94 per bottle
Double Decker (Russian Imperial Stout) – $67.99 = $1.30 per bottle
Lambic [footnote]This isn’t a kit but is about what I paid when I made my Lambic. [/footnote] – $45 = $0.86 per bottle
Have you ever seen a sour for $.86 cents for 12 ounces? If so, please tell me where! Sure, you can find some big stouts off the shelf for around $1.30, in fact, I think I paid $1.50 for a single bottle of Sierra Nevada Narwhal. So that one doesn’t save as much, but apparently the Cincinnati Common, IPA, and sour would all save us money. Plus, it is a fun hobby, and you get exactly what you want. Want a stout with galaxy hops, cinnamon sticks, pineapple, and ghost peppers? Brew-It-Yourself! [footnote]Please don’t make that combination. It’s just an example folks.[/footnote]
I saved the worst for last, but the easiest way to save money on beer is just to drink less of it. Instead of 2 beers a night drink 1, instead of 1 beer every night skip a night here and there. Do you really want to save money? Don’t open a tab at the bar, close out after each and every beer. It’ll make you realize how much you’re spending fast!
One of the best ways to drink less is to make your beer last longer. Is your favorite beer in a bomber? Pick up a Hermetus or a pack of Beer Savers then open your bomber, pour yourself a nice sized glass of it, slide the Hermetic on, and finish the rest of the bomber tomorrow!
Can’t resist the urge to drink special beers but want to keep trying more? Get together with some friends for a bottle share. Everyone brings something special, and you get to try 5 or 6 unique beers instead of just one.
Well, those are my ideas. How do you save money on craft beer?