Like an ideal gas, homebrewing expands to fill the space allotted to it. A previously unused corner of the garage becomes a homebrew station, or the spare guest room transforms into a fermentation cellar. And each homebrewing expansion is accompanied by a corresponding shrinking of the bank account.
If you’d like to homebrew within a budget and still enjoy great beer, here are five ideas to get you there.
Reuse your yeast
This is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to save money. Liquid yeast costs anywhere from $6 to $10 per packet, but if you plan your homebrewing schedule in such a way that you can reuse yeast, the savings add up quickly. This is an especially good idea for those who tend to work with just one or two yeast strains.
Yes, going all-grain does mean acquiring some special homebrew equipment you may not already have, but the savings from batch-to-batch can be significant. The malt bill for an all-grain recipe formulated at 70 percent efficiency might cost only half what the equivalent amount of extract would.
Buy grain in bulk
Purchasing base malts by the sack (50 pounds for U.S. malts, 25 kilograms for European) gets your cost even lower after you’ve made the all-grain switch. Homebrew clubs often organize group purchases that can substantially reduce the cost of grain when compared to buying it one pound at a time.
Buy last year’s hops in bulk
Hops are harvested once a year, and every summer, suppliers have to clean out the old stock to make room for the new. As long as your retailer stores hops properly (refrigerated and nitrogen-flushed or vacuum sealed), last year’s model is essentially as good at this year’s. Some hops store better than others, so be sure to research the varieties you plan to buy.
Make session beer
It should go without saying, but a 5 percent ABV Irish stout requires less malt and fewer hops than a 12 percent ABV Russian imperial stout. High gravity homebrewing certainly has its place in a budget-friendly brewhouse, but remember that the slimmer the recipe, the easier it will be on your wallet.
There are many ways to homebrew on a budget, but no matter how much you spend, it’s less than the equivalent commercial example. And it can be every bit as good.
From ingredients to equipment, process, and recipes—extract, partial-mash, and all-grain—The Illustrated Guide to Homebrewing is a vital resource for those who want to brew better beer. Order your copy today.