smart spending

Brew beer and save a frothy mug-full

"You could be making twice the beer per investment of time. You can make 10 gallons in just about the same amount of time you can make five gallons (of extract beer)," says Erickson.

For Chad King, a professor of environmental science at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio, all-grain brewing is a major timesaver.

"I think it's a good hobby to get into as a joint venture with people to share equipment and have everyone brew on the same setup. You can split each batch you make and reduce costs even more," King says.

Over the years, King has also found more ways to cut costs.

He prints labels on his home printer and uses milk as an adhesive, instead of ordering the pricey custom sticky labels.

King also grows his own hops. Starter plants run only about $5 and after a few years can provide a good crop of hops. It's helped King to cut costs, especially as a worldwide hop shortage has driven prices to unseen highs of $4 an ounce compared with a normal range of $1 to $2.

King estimates his average bottle of homebrewed beer costs 40 cents or less and compares in taste and quality to retail beer that sell for $8 to $9 a six-pack.

Cutting costs further

The uber-frugal home-brewer can cut costs even more. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Save used beer bottles instead of buying bottles. Twist-off bottles won't work though.
  2. Trim an additional $4 to $6 per batch reusing yeast, a method referred to as "repitching."

Keep it clean

To avoid a big loss on ingredient costs and a pit of regret in your stomach, an unwavering fidelity to cleanliness and sanitation is a must.

"You don't need a clean room and biohazard suits," Erickson says. For sanitary purposes, never transfer beer in a moldy basement. If mold spores get into the sugar in your brew before the yeast does, you'll literally end up pouring money down the drain after the batch turns bad.

Sanitation supplies are relatively cheap and costs run less than $1 a batch. A bottle of acid-based sanitizer runs about $15.50 and equates to 160 gallons of sanitizer. Sanitizer is used to rid bacteria from bottles as well as the rest of the brewing equipment.

If you've decided to pool resources by going in with a few friends eager to cut a ballooning beer tab, more savings can be found if your little cabal of brewers decides to buy supplies in bulk.

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