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Homebrewing cost effectiveness

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KikoSanchez

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I just read on another thread that homebrewing isn't cost effective. This is a bit disappointing as I had hoped that with larger quantities and more buying in bulk that it could be made cost effective over the long-run. Is this nonsense or do commercial brewers have great advantages in their economies of scale? How much do you think you can brew a 6-pack for (assuming the bottles are reused and not taking into account brewing upgrades, etc).
 

mb82

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Not counting the price of water I can brew for ~$3 a 6pack for session beers. This is without buying in bulk.
 

Warthaug

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I would strongly disagree - I've done a breakdown of my brewing setup on my blog, and in my case, I am saving money.

Of course, YMMV, depending on the local cost of beer, ingredient costs, equipment costs, etc. But most of us can produce beers for less than an equivalent commercial example. Its equipment costs that tend to bit into the savings, so if you can keep that in control you can come out way ahead.

Bryan
 

janelf

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I think the whole not cost effective part is always doing upgrades. I do 1 gallon brews and my cost is average $6-7 for 10 beers. Considering a 6 pack of quality beer these days is $10 I am saving a little money unless you count my time which I am usually watching sports and drinking beer. So I call it a win.
 

TyTanium

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It is a very safe assumption that you will not save money.

Yes, buying craft beer is expensive. Yes, marginal batch costs are cheap. But equipment isn't free (see above), and you'll probably end up buying more beer than you otherwise would.

Of course there are exceptions, and some will post their math in this thread, but most of us have not saved money. But it's still worth it to brew.
 

dmob29

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Doing all grain, 5 gal batches, buying hops by the pound online, I can brew an IPA or even a IIPA for $26 per batch, which is about $3.25 per six pack. This is of course after the purchase of all my brew equipment and also kegging. I always have some old 12 or 22 oz bottles around or growlers if I want to share or give some out.

Bottom line -- VERY cost effective! As mentioned previously a good sixer will cost $10 and some IIPA and other you pay that for a 4-pack!!
 

BigFloyd

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Like glenn514, I don't do this to save money. I do it because I enjoy creating something that I and my friends can drink and enjoy. It's a cool hobby that for me combines elements of cooking, chemistry, biology, electrical tinkering and imagination. It's one of those things that's easy to do, but challenging to do really well. I dig the challenge.

Sure, the ingredient cost per batch is less than what two cases of good quality craft beer would cost me. I certainly try to save as much on equipment as possible and DIY one heck of a lot (from materials already on hand if at all possible), but it's going to take me a number of years of brewing to recoup those equipment costs.

I don't worry about it.:mug:
 

mikescooling

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Their are way of doing this on the cheap. I think most people here enjoy brewing and don't have a problem dropping some coin to make it more enjoyable. You could do BIAB on a stove top for next to nothing.
 

novahokie09

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I would strongly disagree - I've done a breakdown of my brewing setup on my blog, and in my case, I am saving money.

Of course, YMMV, depending on the local cost of beer, ingredient costs, equipment costs, etc. But most of us can produce beers for less than an equivalent commercial example. Its equipment costs that tend to bit into the savings, so if you can keep that in control you can come out way ahead.

Bryan
From quickly scanning your blog post, you only include the cost of grain, hops, and yeast.

You are not including water, propane, or equipment cost. I'll neglect time and water cost because brewing is a hobby, and water is ~$0.05/batch if you're using tap water.

Propane and equpment cost are not neglible to brewing cost. If you're buying refillable propane tanks, the average cost is $6/batch for propane. You said you spent $785 on equipment over ~21 batches. Your average equipment cost is $37/batch. You must understand that your equipment cost is a fixed cost, so it's amoritzied on a per batch basis. The unit cost decreases over time. Equipment cost will continue getting cheaper over batches; however, you will inevitably have to replace equipment over time.

In the end, the cited $25/batch is severly understated. It's closer to $68 per batch, and that's valuing your time at 0. Also, 20L does not yield 60 beers. Assuming exactly 20L to the keg and no material left in a keg, you're at 56 beers.

It's possible to make beer cheaper than you can buy it, if you neglect the time aspect. However, brewing beer is a hobby. If you're getting into brewing beer to save money, you're in it for the wrong reasons.
 

broadbill

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Only if you would be getting paid to do something else. Time is spent regardless of whether it is on the couch watching TV or brewing. If you count your time against the cost of brewing you are in the wrong hobby.

You, me, and all the rest of you have a finite amount of time in this life. Therefore every minute has value. To say that time only has value if you are working is only correct if you consider money to be the sole indicator of value.
 

masterfool101

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When people ask that question, I love to tell them the best post I've ever seen on this forum:

"Getting into homebrewing for cheap beer is like buying a boat for cheap fish."

What it gets down to is that you spend money on the ingredients - and how much you spend depends on where you live, what the market is like, and how much you buy at a time.

But, as has been mentioned before, the cost of the INGREDIENTS is only a part of the cost of the beer. Equipment costs are up there too. And don't forget the cost of the propane to boil the water (or gas, or electricity, or whatever you use), and the costs of the cleaning agents and sanitizers.

Once you're in this hobby, you'll constantly find yourself buying this gadget or that, to improve your process . .. or upgrading your equipment . .. or buying new equipment to replace the stuff that's worn out.

Truth is, I've brewed 40 or so batches, but I've probably spent $800 on equipment, gadgets, and "stuff" . . . so if I was being honest about cost, I need to add about $20/batch. Figure I get 8 x 6 packs in a batch, that means that the EQUIPMENT COST of each batch is around $2.50. Then add it ingredients at about $40 a batch (plus or minus, depending on what you brew), so $5.00 per 6 pack, and even after 40 batches, I've still payed about $7.50 / 6 pack . .. and I got my friends to GIVE me bottles (and have saved and reused them plenty).

Oh, and next week I want to upgrade my propane burner (about $150) and my brew kettle (about $100) . . . so it's not looking to get any cheaper :)

That being said ... I don't do this to save money on beer. I do this because I ENJOY MAKING BEER. It's fun. It engages my inner scientist and inner alcoholic :) And it's STILL cheaper than that fishing boat I was looking at . . . :p
 
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You, me, and all the rest of you have a finite amount of time in this life. Therefore every minute has value. To say that time only has value if you are working is only correct if you consider money to be the sole indicator of value.
Yep, exactly.
 

woozy

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You save some. You maybe even save a lot. But usually when it comes to the "We can save money buying sausage casings and a meat grinder and making our own sausages" there comes a factor of convenience that's more subtle than just a matter of time. You've got to store the sausage containers, you've get to clean the greasy meat grinder, you've got to research the ingredients and buy and deal with them, you've got to *eat* your sausages and acknowledge that you just aren't very good at it. You just have to *deal* with things. Eventually you realize you might be making sausages at 35 cents to the dollar ... but it's *still* not worth it.

So I'm making beer for about 80 cents a bottle. Okay, but I'm dealing with smelly fermenters full of gunky trub. I'm hauling empty smelly bottles around. Okay, I *like* doing all that stuff but... Well, the consolation that I'm saving 50 cents a bottle on my beer just ... doesn't register for even a second. It just doesn't.

I mean I might know my beers are 80 cents a bottle and someone could say "Hey, you're saving 50, maybe even 80 cents a bottle!" and it would register about as much as saying "Hey, by staying home and home-brewing instead of going to the movies you are saving twelve bucks". It's just.... it's just a completely different headspace. Don't know how else to put it.

===edit===
Okay, yes. My beer for 80 cents is an understatement. It's *marginal* cost is 80 cents. And I'm ignoring everything else but ingredients. Which is fine. Putting the water bill and the electricity bill aside (I'd have to pay them anyway and if I don't *notice* that my water bill is higher due to me hobby I can easily *pretend* that cost doesn't go to my hobby; even though it does) I can ignore the equipment cost as toys for the sake of toys and owning toys makes me happy. My point is even if it did save money and I only counted the *immediate* and noticeable cost of directly making my 80 cent beer, it still isn't relevent because the ... whole meshugona ... of making the beer just puts it in a completely different category that makes comparison impossible to really fathom.
 

broadbill

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Bottom line -- VERY cost effective! As mentioned previously a good sixer will cost $10 and some IIPA and other you pay that for a 4-pack!!
Compare your $3.25/6 pack to what it costs a brewery to make the same recipe
minus their labor charges and you'll see how expensive your IPA becomes.

A brewery wraps significant labor costs into their product, which you are comparing to your product that doesn't have any labor costs associated with it. Its an apples to all-season tires comparison.
 

Magic8Ball

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When you factor in some of the equipment costs (especially for the shiny rigs people have), fridges, kegs, freezers, conicals, etc... you can get leaps and bounds away from being cost effective very quickly.

Honestly though: Who makes homebrew for the sole purpose of saving money?
I am not sure I have ever brewed to save money. However, I use that excuse as one way to justify this hobby to myself and more importantly, my wife.

Beer Smiths Email Newsletter was "5 ways to save money homebrewing"
1 Buy in Bulk or Join a Group Buy
2 Cut Down on the Hops
3 Wash and Reuse Your Yeast
4 Build Your Own Equipment
5 Go All Grain
 

Walter_Whites_Batch

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Up here in Canada, we pay a lot more for booze than many other places. I can buy strongbow cider at the lcbo for:

STRONGBOW CIDER
LCBO 123232 | 6x330 mL bottle

Price $ 14.15

I can brew 23L of EdWorts Apfelwein for:

Juice: Costco $1 per L= $24
Heating cost: $0 or negligible for dissolving priming sugar
Carboys, bottles, airlocks, hoses, bottling wands, hydrometers I have had for 20+ years.
Dextrose: $5
yeast $1
starsan, oxyclean... maybe $2?

so 24 Litres costs me about $32. + my time. I can get it made in half an hour. Bottling takes maybe 45 minutes cleanup included. Retail for 24 Litres is around $169.80.
 

Yooper

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When you factor in some of the equipment costs (especially for the shiny rigs people have), fridges, kegs, freezers, conicals, etc... you can get leaps and bounds away from being cost effective very quickly.

Honestly though: Who makes homebrew for the sole purpose of saving money?
Exactly! I can make 11 gallons of cream ale for $16 by reusing yeast, buying hops and grain in bulk, (rice at the dollar store, believe it or not!), and growing my own hops.

However, I have a LOT of $$$$ invested in my mill, freezers, kegerator, all electric HERMS, RO water system, pH meter, etc. Now, those are not necessary but make brewing much more fun and convenient.

It will always be cheaper to buy a 30 pack of Milwaukee's Best than to brew a great homebrew- but where you might save a bit of money is if you typically buy $10-$12 six packs. If you drink homebrew instead of Stone, you'll save a few bucks over the long term. It seems like most of us still buy commercial beer, though- for "sampling" purposes of course!
 

dmob29

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Compare your $3.25/6 pack to what it costs a brewery to make the same recipe
minus their labor charges and you'll see how expensive your IPA becomes.

A brewery wraps significant labor costs into their product, which you are comparing to your product that doesn't have any labor costs associated with it. Its an apples to all-season tires comparison.
Ya, there are a lot of good points I didn't think about, equipment and other stuff... my time spent on this hobby doesn't equate to a dollar amount. I don't brew to make "inexpensive" beer, I do it cause it's enjoyable.
 

Warthaug

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From quickly scanning your blog post, you only include the cost of grain, hops, and yeast.

You are not including water, propane, or equipment cost. I'll neglect time and water cost because brewing is a hobby, and water is ~$0.05/batch if you're using tap water.
Equipment is on the table at the bottom of the post. Water is 'free', as we pay what amounts to a flat rate (our per-volume charge is a few cents on top of an ~$30 flat 'delivery' rate).

Propane and equpment cost are not neglible to brewing cost. If you're buying refillable propane tanks, the average cost is $6/batch for propane.
What kind of burner are you running? It costs me $12.25 to fill a 20lb cylinder, and I do 6-8 batches of beer off of one cylinder. Thats $1.5 to $2/batch for propane, or 2-3 cents per bottle.

You said you spent $785 on equipment over ~21 batches. Your average equipment cost is $37/batch. You must understand that your equipment cost is a fixed cost, so it's amoritzied on a per batch basis.
You can amoritize it if you want, I blogged about it using a cost-recovery model - once those costs are recovered, the expense no longer exists.

EDIT: upon thinking about it, you've amortized wrong. Amortization is based on product lifetime - not on current usage. The only way to calculate the 'true' amortized per-batch cost would to be to retroactively calculate at the end of the equipments lifespan. Lacking that, we can compare to an equivalent example. My old setup was near-identical to the new one (I had to reconstruct my brewing setup after a move). The old equipment - which turns 17 years old this year - is still in use by my brother, and generated me ~$400 batches of beer. Assuming a similar "batch-lifespan" of the current system, that works out to ~2 cents per batch in equipment costs.

however, you will inevitably have to replace equipment over time.
My experience runs to the contrary - 16 years ago I built my first MLT, and brewed ~400 batches with it. My brother continues to use it today, plus on my original pot, camp-burner, etc. If you take care of your kit & build it right, it'll last a long, long time.

In the end, the cited $25/batch is severly understated.
Far from. If you actually read the post instead of skimming it you'd see that price is clearly based on ingredient costs. And since I've 'recovered' the costs of my kit in savings, its an accurate measure of how much I'm spending per batch.

Assuming exactly 20L to the keg and no material left in a keg, you're at 56 beers.
Umm, no. Here (Canada) a 'standard' beer bottle is 341ml. 20L/0.341L = 58.65 bottles, which rounds up conveniently to 60. Pre-kegging, I averaged 60-63 bottles per batch, at the indicated costs.

If you're getting into brewing beer to save money, you're in it for the wrong reasons.
However, its a perfectly reasonable thing to do when answering the OP's question, or dealing with SWMBO'd.

B
 

sok454

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Brewing to save money reminds me of the guys who ask... how do I brew budweiser??? Who in the world wants to brew bud... just go buy a sixer.... Unfortunately for me all my local buddies are the budlight/miller lite types so they don't appreciate home brews.. I mean they consider Spotted Cow to be heavier than they are use to.
 

dmob29

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Brewing to save money reminds me of the guys who ask... how do I brew budweiser??? Who in the world wants to brew bud... just go buy a sixer.... Unfortunately for me all my local buddies are the budlight/miller lite types so they don't appreciate home brews.. I mean they consider Spotted Cow to be heavier than they are use to.
Bummer dude... I have converted several of my friends to start drinking or at least trying different beer just from my brews... even got the wife to start liking beer!!! That is a win all by itself and completely negates the cost of brewing!!!!
 

kh54s10

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I keep getting below $2/bottle total expenditures, then I buy another big ticket item.... If you get a nice setup, settle on it and stop upgrading, you should be able to get your total investment costs below commercial prices. However I now drink a lot more than I previously bought. I guess I do save since I drink a lot less soda, juice etc.

As to the value of your time. I wish to invest my time brewing and my brewing does not cut into time where I would be earning a wage. So I don't lose any $$ or other value from the time I spend brewing.
 

LAHammer

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I didn't get into this hobby to add up all of my costs. I certainly have spent more than I expected to but that's because I got excited about the process and didn't mind the expense. There are inexpensive ways to get into this and on the other end you can literally spend as much as you want. However, I still get an unbelievable feeling every time I take a sip of my beer. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is priceless.
 

Tarks

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Home brewing is a slippery slope. If you catch the bug like most of us then you are constantly trying to learn and upgrade. This costs money. Lots of it. :)

I hate to say, it but if you are getting into the hobby to save money, you're probably not going to last. Most of us including myself got into it because we love beer and wanted to learn the craft of making it.
 

novahokie09

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What kind of burner are you running? It costs me $12.25 to fill a 20lb cylinder, and I do 6-8 batches of beer off of one cylinder. Thats $1.5 to $2/batch for propane, or 2-3 cents per bottle.
I use a banjo burner, and get around 3 - 4 uses per 20 lb cylinder. Refill cost is around 18 dollars. I use it to heat mash water and obviously boil.

You can amoritize it if you want, I blogged about it using a cost-recovery model - once those costs are recovered, the expense no longer exists.
You spent $785 over 21 batches. That's $37/batch.

Far from. If you actually read the post instead of skimming it you'd see that price is clearly based on ingredient costs. And since I've 'recovered' the costs of my kit in savings, its an accurate measure of how much I'm spending per batch.
You did not recover the cost because you have not calculated your cost correctly. Your cost is much closer to $1.20 per beer. Much greater than that if you assign cost to labor of a 5 - 6 hour brew day.

Umm, no. Here (Canada) a 'standard' beer bottle is 341ml. 20L/0.341L = 58.65 bottles, which rounds up conveniently to 60. Pre-kegging, I averaged 60-63 bottles per batch, at the indicated costs.
In the states, 20L is equal to 676 ounces or 56 - 12 ounce bottles.

However, its a perfectly reasonable thing to do when answering the OP's question, or dealing with SWMBO'd.
Once again, brewing is not about saving money. It's about enjoying the hobby and creativity involved in making your own beer.
 

glick

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I did begin homebrewing to save money while brewing beers that I enjoy drinking. Now just like any other hobby there are initial expenses. To what extent you decide to upgrade from the basic necessities will determine how long it takes to negate the initial expenditures. Personally I have a bare bones all- grain setup. It's not pretty, but it's cheap and it does the job. It is possible to save money homebrewing.
 

Subsailor

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Any time I devote to any of my hobbies is time well spent. The costs become a minimal annoyance compared to the pleasure I receive as I drink something I have made, with ingredients I have chosen on equipment I have assembled. It is hard to worry about the costs when I am sipping an oaked stout or a barleywine on a cold winter's night or a great session beer with family and friends at a bar b que or an IPA that I deliberately cranked up the hoppiness.
I get the same satisfaction from dropping a 1200lb moose along the banks of the Kuskokwim with ammuniton I reloaded or landing an ocean bright silver salmon with a fly I have tied. The fiscal cost just doesn't matter with these hobbies, I brew more (drink more), shoot more and fish more. I don't remotely lie to myself that I am saving money.
I do it for the end result, it is something that I thoroughly enjoy and in all of these cases, it is something I can share with others.
 

woozy

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Compare your $3.25/6 pack to what it costs a brewery to make the same recipe
minus their labor charges and you'll see how expensive your IPA becomes.

A brewery wraps significant labor costs into their product, which you are comparing to your product that doesn't have any labor costs associated with it. Its an apples to all-season tires comparison.
Okay, I completely agree with you 100%

...but...

Why the hell would I care what labor costs of the commercial beer is? Or what any cost of any part of the commercial beer is? If I'm comparing "the cost" of a commercial beer to my beer all I care about the commercial beer is how much money I am paying for it. I don't care how much of that is labor, profit, ingredients, equipment or the easter bunny's retirement fund. All I care is that it's change that I pony over when i buy the beer.

But I agree that its apple to all-season tires comparison.

Although maybe I'd describe it apple to sitting on a porch watching a sunset comparison.
 

broadbill

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Home brewing is a slippery slope. If you catch the bug like most of us then you are constantly trying to learn and upgrade. This costs money. Lots of it. :)

I hate to say, it but if you are getting into the hobby to save money, you're probably not going to last. Most of us including myself got into it because we love beer and wanted to learn the craft of making it.
Agreed, and its a fair amount of work too...Lots of cleaning, prep work, lifting pots/mash tuns/fermenters, etc.

There are definitely cheaper and less strenuous hobbies...

I would say that this hobby does have a significant fall-out rate. I know ALOT of people who have tried it, very few that stuck with it (more than a year for example).

I don't think it is because of cost because they all dropped the coin on a starter kit + ingredients. If I were to guess I'd say probably because of the quality of the resulting product or how long it took to get it.

That is why I find it amusing so many people don't recognize the time it take to brew....I think its a big reason why many people don't stick with the hobby in the first place.
 

broadbill

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Why the hell would I care what labor costs of the commercial beer is? Or what any cost of any part of the commercial beer is? If I'm comparing "the cost" of a commercial beer to my beer all I care about the commercial beer is how much money I am paying for it. I don't care how much of that is labor, profit, ingredients, equipment or the easter bunny's retirement fund. All I care is that it's change that I pony over when i buy the beer.
You shouldn't care...my post was in reference to the argument that you can brew something cheaper than what you can buy it for. That only works if you "stack" the comparison by comparing your production cost with their retail price. To be fair, it should be production cost to production cost, taking into account all of the things they have to pay for to bring beer to you.
 

Warthaug

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You spent $785 over 21 batches. That's $37/batch.
But there is a flaw with your math - when I brewed the 22nd batch the equipment is now paid for ($37/batch, over 21 batches), so the value is zero. Hence, why non-term amortization is always over the equipments lifetime. Which, for an average brew rig that gets some nominal TLC, runs into the hundreds of batches - AKA, a few cents per batch.

If you calculate it your way, you repeatedly pay for the equipment. Amortization only works if you have a set term, or do it over the equipments lifespan.

You did not recover the cost because you have not calculated your cost correctly. Your cost is much closer to $1.20 per beer.
You've made a fatal mistake in your math - if calculating cost-recovery, you do not incorporate equipment costs into the per-batch cost - to do so is to pay for the equipment twice.

Again, my average costs:
Ingredient cost per batch: $25, or $0.42/bottle
Propane: $2.45/batch, or $0.04/bottle
Water: "free" (less than $0.01 in volume charge)
Total cost: $27.45, or $0.46/bottle
Store cost of 'equivalent' bottle: $2.25
Savings (i.e. applied to cost-recovery): $1.79/bottle

Much greater than that if you assign cost to labor of a 5 - 6 hour brew day.
Or much less if you subtract value-added. Of course, assigning hourly rates, or value-added, is somewhat silly for a hobby. The OP, and my blog post, were clearly about cost of operations.

In the states, 20L is equal to 676 ounces or 56 - 12 ounce bottles.
And since neither I, nor my blog, are American, one has to wonder why you'd take me to task for not using American bottles...

Once again, brewing is not about saving money. It's about enjoying the hobby and creativity involved in making your own beer.
You're assigning your motivations onto the actions of others. For some homebrewers, saving money could very well be the name of the game. Indeed, when I started 16 years ago I began brewing for the explicit purpose of getting my uni friends and I as drunk as possible for as cheap as possible. And we saved a lot. My log notes 23L (5 imp. gallon) batches of beer brewed for a whopping $6.38 - about $9 today. All of that using cooper kits, table sugar, and a free fermenter I found somewhere. It was nasty 'beer', but it served our purposes.

Thankfully, those days are behind me, but to assume there is no longer brewers out there like my younger self is . . . naive.

Bryan
 

Heavywalker

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You also need to add in your monthly mortgage/rent per sq-ft of brewing/storage space. :p
Also factor in that during your brew session you could have went to the store and purchased a winning lottery ticket. :rolleyes:
 

glick

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You shouldn't care...my post was in reference to the argument that you can brew something cheaper than what you can buy it for. That only works if you "stack" the comparison by comparing your production cost with their retail price. To be fair, it should be production cost to production cost, taking into account all of the things they have to pay for to bring beer to you.
The production cost for a brewery is always going to be less then that of the homebrewer. The brewery purchases ingredients in such large quantities that they enjoy the benefit of lower prices. I don't think that it is "stacking" the comparison to compare my production cost with their retail price. I don't have to pay any of the associated costs that a brewery does to bring my beer to market, and that in and of itself makes my beer cheaper. If the brewery was selling beer at production cost then it would definately be cheaper to buy beer then to brew it, but they don't.
 

Channel66

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The production cost for a brewery is always going to be less then that of the homebrewer. The brewery purchases ingredients in such large quantities that they enjoy the benefit of lower prices. I don't think that it is "stacking" the comparison to compare my production cost with their retail price. I don't have to pay any of the associated costs that a brewery does to bring my beer to market, and that in and of itself makes my beer cheaper. If the brewery was selling beer at production cost then it would definately be cheaper to buy beer then to brew it, but they don't.
Of course they don't. Luis vitton doesn't sell their bags at production cost either. It's a business.

But breweries also have uncle Sam to answer to. Tax tax tax
 
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