There are many reasons we all first took that first step down the path to homebrewing, a want for a hobby that would get you drunk, a desire to customize beer to your palate, or perhaps you started to save a few bucks. Regardless of your reason for starting, we are all here. In this article that I will cover ways you can save money and get more out of your homebrewing beyond just beer.
1) Start a house yeast for homebrewing
Let’s jump into this concept head first. With each brew, you find yourself more and more comfortable in your skin. You find yourself developing favorite malts, hops, and even yeasts. Once you do that, you can save yourself some fuss, save some money, and get more from homebrewing by beginning to harvest your yeast after your beer finishes fermenting. Especially if you have a favorite “house yeast.”
Yeast may only cost about $6 per brew, but that can add up over time. If you’re only using one or two kinds of yeasts, then you can save $6 each homebrewing outing by doing a process called yeast ranching.
Yeast ranching is the process of taking the leftover yeast left over in the bottom of your fermenter and storing it for further use. If you’re lucky enough to have a conical fermenter, this process is a lot easier as you just open the valve at the bottom and drop it into a holding vessel.
This process will allow you to test your sanitization game as well, if you should fall short, you’re essentially dooming your next 5-10 batches. But fear not, yeast ranching isn’t that difficult with proper sanitization and due diligence.
The steps are a bit long, but luckily BYO did a fantastic write up for how to go about doing this.
2) Grow your own hops
With every moment that passes, I’m convinced that the IBUs on the average beer rise by at least ten. That being said hops are expensive, and while you can’t grow that rare strain cultivated from an ark on the bottom of the ocean then grown atop a mountain by lesbian nuns, you can grow a pretty nice variety of strains to use in a wide array of beer styles.
Below is a hop rhizome.
This lil’ root will one day sprout into an enormous vine that will yield godless amounts of hops… a few years after you plant it that is. The initial harvest of most hops is pretty dismal. But while they may not yield much, at first, they do look cool.
If you’re curious about how to grow hops, there are some great resources out there with this BYO article being my go-to resource.
3) Reuse spent grain
Moving down the line, how many of you just toss that spent grain into the dumpster and move on with your day? This is like throwing free food out the window. There are many things you can make, from pretzels to pair with your beer to dog treats for your loving pooch. Many breweries incorporate the spent grains into their restaurants in an attempt to minimize waste.
While this may sound like a gimmick, I can assure you that the end results from this are quite delicious; I’ve done spent grain granola and here’s the recipe. You can also get a lot more from homebrewing by making spent grain flour!
Obviously, using spent grain won’t save you money on homebrewing itself, but it can save you money on snacks, dog treats, or flour; money that you can then spend on homebrewing!
Why waste money on things that beer making has already done for you? You can funnel all that saved cash back into your hobby. It also gives you ammo in conversations when your significant other says “our entire basement is alive.” You can bravely chime that because of these things you’ve not bought flour in three years.
Not into baking? That’s fine; spent grains have a multitude of uses. I’ve seen people trade it to local farms for meat or eggs. Farmers are happy to get it because chickens, pigs, and cows love the stuff. Your local farmer will thank you for taking a bit of stress off them from feeding what will eventually be your breakfast. In a way, gifting your spent grains to a farmer is like homebrewing your own steak, bacon or eggs. If that’s not rewarding, I don’t know what is.
No local animal farms? Trade them to your local composter or garden grower. I’ve not had to buy vegetables much since I found out that spent grain and trub make excellent fillers for compost. Beer is a valuable tradable commodity. But it’s byproducts can be used for so much that its waste makes me a little sad.
4) Reuse brewing water
If food and yeast aren’t enough for you, there is also the option to save a bit on your water bill. The cooling of your beer takes time, and that time produces a lot of water, why let it go to waste? I’ve taken to keeping a few buckets around while I’m chilling and collecting that water for use elsewhere. Like filling a sink to wash some dishes, watering some plants around the house, or even washing my clothes. Water is one of the largest and cheapest ingredients to go into beer, but it still costs money that you could save. Perhaps I’m too frugal, but there is so much that homebrewing creates that to me it seems foolish to waste it.
How do you save money and get more out of homebrewing?
This hobby has so many interesting things that you discover as you move along the path to becoming a better brewer. I’ve learned so much in the time I’ve been homebrewing, and I continue to unearth new things with each step I take. I hope these little tidbits have provided you with some new side projects to work on to save you some cash.
What do you want next?
In closing, I’d like to ask all of you to please leave a comment on something you’d like to see covered in these articles. I have many topics I’d like to cover, but I also want to keep my readers happy so feel free to leave a comment below. Keep the beer flowing and your mind growing!