As the cost of living rises and everything seems to cost double. All but the wealthy are feeling the squeeze on their pockets. Necessities become the priority, and rightly so, but this means some things have to stop. Beer might be one of those luxuries now out of reach. So it begs the question, ‘is it cheaper to brew beer or buy it?
If it is significantly cheaper to brew beer, then it may still be a luxury that doesn’t have to go. Yes, it takes a little time and effort, but with that comes a satisfying sense of achievement. In the article I weigh up the pros and cons of brewing beer and whether it is cheaper than buying beer.
Is It Cheaper To Brew Beer Or Buy It?
I started brewing beer last year, so from my experience I say it is cheaper. However not to begin with, mainly because the cost of the equipment. But after a few batches of beer you hit the break even point and from then on it becomes cheaper.
Even though it should work out cheaper than buying beer. How hard is it and is it worth the effort?
What Is Homebrewing?
Homebrewing is simply brewing beer at home. It can be a very simple process with very little equipment to start off. Or it can be a little more involved requiring more skill and more equipment.
There are three basic types of homebrewing for real ale. You could categorise them as beginner, intermediate and advanced.
- kit brewing/All extract brewing
- Partial Mash brewing/Extract brewing
- All grain brewing
This is the simplest method of home brewing and perfect for beginners. It can also be known as all extract brewing. But basically means that all ingredients are extract from the grains and come in liquid or powder form.
Once a few batches of beer are under the belt many progress forward with partial mash brewing. Having said that, some just stick with kit brewing just for ease. Its simple and cheap and requires minimal equipment and space.
This can also be referred to as extract brewing and falls in between kit brewing and all grain brewing. Still using malt extract like kit brewing, but with extra ingredients to add. Grains and hops are added in addition to the malt extract.
A second batch of hops can be added at the end of fermentation too. Known as dry hoppy to add more aroma to the beer.
It is an easy transition to move from kit brewing to partial mash, and some even start at this level.
All grain brewing ditches the kit for the raw ingredients and does require a little more skill and equipment. This is making beer from scratch just like the breweries do.
Ingredients do work out cheaper than extract kits, especially if you buy them in bulk and store at home. However it also requires more investment in extra equipment, and will require a little more space.
All grain brewing is not the best place to start brewing. But once you have brewed beer using the other methods, then it is an option for progression.
It also give you a lot more control over the beer, but is open to more mistakes too.
Why Do People Brew Beer At Home?
There are many reasons why people brew beer at home. The most obvious one is to save money, but it could be to experiment with ingredients and/or different styles of beer. Perhaps just the thrill and satisfaction of producing beer is why some people do it.
Others may do it because they want to compete in homebrew competitions and see their beer win prizes.
For me it is just about beer, I love beer, so brewing my own just makes sense. I enjoy the process and its a worthwhile hobby that has the reward of beer at the end of it.
There is nothing like pouring a freshly brewed beer that you have made yourself. Especially when it turns out better than some you would buy in a shop.
What Does It Cost To Brew Beer At Home?
The cost to brew beer at home is up to the individual. It can be a relatively small investment up front, or pretty expensive for all the bells and whistles.
I started with just the basic equipment which came with everything I need to brew beer. On top of that it included an American Pale Ale brew kit.
The Cost Of Equipment
- Fermentation Bucket
- Pressure Barrel
- Sample Jar
- Priming Sugar
- C02 Cannister
- APA Beer Kit
All I need to brew my first batch of 40 pints of pale ale. You can see the price I paid in the image above. So not a huge investment to get started.
That is the bear minimum to get up a running as a homebrewer. However there are plenty of starter kits on the market, some less and some more.
What Is The Cost Of Ingredients?
As you can see from the image above my second kit cost £25.49, it is an Amber Ale and makes 40 Pints of beer.
I did buy some steriliser too and treated myself to some swing top bottles, mainly to share some of my beer with friends.
Beer kits do vary in price from retailer to retailer, so it is worth shopping around. They also differ in price depending on the beer style you are brewing.
The Amber Ale was part of a premium range of beer kits, there are some for half the price I paid for mine.
All grain ingredients are said to work out cheaper if you buy a decent quantity. I have no experience yet with all grain brewing, so cannot show examples of costs.
However with the extra cost for equipment, it will take longer to reach the break even point.
What Is The Cost In Time For Homebrewing?
Many people when they compare the cost of homebrewing to the cost of store bought beer take into consideration the cost of time.
So if you add an hourly rate to your homebrew, then it will take the cost per pint up considerably. It may come out at the same cost as shop beer. Or even go above if your hourly rate is on the high side.
However I don’t agree with adding an hourly rate to homebrewing. It is not a business and I don’t brew during working hours.
For me brewing beer is a hobby, I brew in my leisure time, I enjoy it. Just like a keen golfer enjoys playing a round of golf. They don’t add an hourly rate to each round of golf because it is a hobby enjoyed in their leisure time.
A golfer plays for enjoyment and to lower their handicap (I think). I brew beer to get better at it and I get 40 pints to enjoy at the end. I definitely prefer my hobby.
For that reason the cost of my time does not come into my homebrewing.
The Cost Of Beer Off The Shelf
The cost of beer is going up, whether you get it from the pub, the store or brew it yourself. My last kit purchase the Amber Ale is now £5.00 more today.
Which means it has gone up by 0.12p per pint brewing 40 pints. A media report shows that bottled beer has gone up 6.92% and canned beer 9.03% in the last year.
According to the Office For National Statistics the average price of draught beer has gone up by 0.22p between January and February 2023.
So the price increase for all the three ways to get your beer are relative.
Cost Depends On The Style Of Beer
The style of beer you drink will determine how much you pay per can or bottle. Your standard macro beer like Fosters will cost you less than a craft beer.
A local supermarket is selling 18 cans of Fosters (at the time of writing this article) for £15.48. Making it 0.88p per can. However this is for 440ml and is not a full pint.
The same shop is selling one 440ml can of a Beavertown beer for £4.50 (again at the time of writing this article), that is for less than a pint.
A big difference from 0.88p per can for the same quantity.
Varying Cost Of Beer Between Stores
Another variant of buying beer off the shelf is which store you shop in. In the UK we have budget stores as well as more higher end stores.
One of the budget stores has a 550ml bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale at £1.79. While a higher end store has the same product at £2.40 (again at the time of writing this article).
So the cost of beer can vary considerably depending on which store you get it from.
Cost Comparison Between Homebrew And Store Beer
Like I said before I am not going to include the time factor into the brewing cost. I will factor in the equipment cost.
I based the store beer and pub beer on Newcastle Brown Ale as the bottle is a pint.
The First brew batch includes the equipment cost and kit into the price per pint. The second batch is using a premium kit priced at £25.49 producing 40 pints. The third batch uses a standard kit of brown ale at £15.99 producing 40 pints.
Other Costs To Consider With Homebrew
There are some other costs associated with homebrewing which will push the price per pint up slightly. However they are pretty minimal, so should still come well under the store and pub price.
The cost for water is something to think about, as is sanitiser. Electricity for heating pads and Campden tablets if you decide to use them.
However you could say there is extra cost to store beer too. The time it takes to visit the store, the cost of fuel if you drive to the store.
In both cases the extra costs are minimal.
In my brewing experience so far, I find it cheaper to brew beer than buy it. For me that is a bonus as I get cheap beer for a hobby I enjoy, its win win.
On top of that it is easy to brew beer at home, when it comes to extract brewing. I have not tried all grain brewing, so can’t comment on that.
I liken brewing beer to cooking, which I also love (which is handy because I do all the cooking). If you can follow a recipe, then you can cook. The same goes for beer, follow the method and you get good beer.
So is it cheaper to brew beer or buy it?
In my opinion it is cheaper to brew beer than buy it. But you may have a different opinion. So share your thoughts below about your experience with brewing beer and whether you find it cheaper or not. Especially if you brew using the all grain method.
Rob is a passionate home bar and pub shed enthusiast with a passion for craft beer. With hands-on experience in designing and building his own home bar, Rob shares his knowledge, tips, and inspiration to help fellow enthusiasts create their own perfect space. Alongside the world of home bars and pub sheds, Rob also explores the diverse and exciting realm of craft beer, providing honest reviews to help you discover your next favorite brew. Join Rob on a journey of flavor, design, and craftsmanship right here on Home Bar Kit.